What Is A Tourniquet? When And How To Use It

Do you know what is a tourniquet? When a person loses a considerable amount of blood, like 40% blood of the total volume, he/she enters in a critical condition. In this condition, the body becomes unable to recompense for the blood loss. The person starts to experience hypovolemic shock, which means the body is unable to circulate blood due to the low volume. If left untreated, the person will experience death within a short time. Tourniquet comes in use to treat this type of patient quickly.

What’s worrying is a person can lose that amount of blood within 3-4 minutes, for children even less. Which means the body gives a little time to respond, sometimes not even the time to get to the hospital.

It’s no pleasure to talk about accidents and emergencies. But it’s necessary. Accidents caused by human or nature can happen anytime. You may not use your tourniquet every day. But you have to keep it handy for emergencies like these.

What Is A Tourniquet?

A tourniquet is a compressing device, comes in a form of bandage, flexible strip of material, even rope. The tourniquet is enfolded loosely around the place and then twisted to tighten it. The main task of a tourniquet is arterial or venous blood circulation. So that the blood doesn’t drain quickly from the body. This is not a permanent solution. But it’s effective when you’re out in the wilderness or need a quick response before going to the hospital.

The tourniquet is applied to the skin. Upon squeezing, the pressure transfers to the wall of the vessels, making the circulation path narrow. The device is vastly used by military medics, doctors, nurses, even general people for cannulation, or preventing the bleeding.

How To Make A Tourniquet

So how to make a tourniquet? A basic and primitive tourniquet is made by rope and a stick. The rope goes wrapping the arm or the legs with the stick tied at the end. Then the rope is simply twisted and tightened. This technique is often used by the military personnel and adventurers, especially if they do not have any first-aid box with them or any hospital nearby.

There is a debate over tourniquet effect. There is no doubt that it stops bleeding effectively. But putting it for long enough might cause issues like nerve damage and tissue damage. The side has been reduced by modern tourniquets. They come pre-assembled, faster to apply than the traditional ones. Also, they can be applied by the victim himself with one hand. However, that need a little practice beforehand.

Read More: Best Tourniquets Guide

When To Use A Tourniquet?

Remember, a tourniquet, if applied correctly, might be painful. It’s necessary to know when to use a tourniquet. Otherwise, we’ll risk using the tourniquet in an inappropriate time and inappropriate manner. Let’s see when a tourniquet should be used.

 #01/ Before using a tourniquet, inspect the wound carefully and assess the severity. If there’s too much blood, wipe as much as you can with a clean cloth. If there is any cloth or debris stuck in the wound, do not pull it.

Call 911 and ask for medical help. Until the help arrives, apply pressure in the wounded area with a cloth so that the blood flow becomes lower. Keep the wounded area above the heart the decrease blood circulation.

If the applied cloth becomes saturated with water, do not remove it. That might break the clot and start bleeding again. Simply put new cloth on it. If the blood doesn’t stop draining, make proper use of a tourniquet.

 #02/ If you’re out on a trip of in the case of military personnel. Tourniquet safety a necessary option. In the case of an injury, the person should assess the rate of blood loss and put pressure on the wound. However, putting pressure on the patient isn’t a suitable option for long, as the patient will continue to weaken. Apply tourniquet by one hand and call for help.

 #03/  If a person faces traumatic experience like getting stabbed of shot, tourniquet can be used to stop the bleeding immediately and refrain the person from going to shock.

How Long Can A Tourniquet Left On?

It’s necessary to know tourniquet time limit of application. If a tourniquet is applied for more than two hours, it may result in permanent nerve damage. The tourniquet should be applied for just the required time until any help reaches, which may be up to an hour or so. Release the tourniquet when it seems that the blood draining has stopped. Do not just take the pressure off suddenly, rather do it slowly without upsetting the clot.

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How To Apply A Tourniquet

It’s necessary to know how to apply a tourniquet. Because inappropriate use tourniquet might increase the severity of the patient’s condition. Check the steps.

Step -01

Tourniquets are a preferred method to stop bleeding in limb injuries. They are not meant to be applied in the case of a head or chest injury. This is not a permanent solution.

Step -02

Make an assessment of the wound. Discover the origin of the blood. Sometimes, blood gets spread out so much that we miss the injured place. Which results in serious mistakes like applying the tourniquet right onto the injured place.

Step -03

Apply pressure on the wound. That can be done either with gauge pad or in absence of that a clean cloth. Try not to put dirty clothes on the wound which might initiate another problem, infection. Keep putting pressure until the blood gets clotted. If the cloth is soaked, use new one ‘above’ it.

Step -04

Keep the injured person in a comfortable position and pacify him. Call for help and prepare to apply the tourniquet.

Step -05

Having a medical tourniquet is always great, but you might not find the convenience all time. In that case, you have to improvise and look for something that is resilient and bendable. A bandanna, leather belt, stocking, a strap from backpack anything will suffice. Make sure the tourniquet is at least 2-3 inches wide. You can use something slimmer for finger, but don’t use too thin ropes, floss, wire etc.

Step -06

Keep the wound above your heart, so that the blood flow decreases. Apply the tourniquet 2-3 inches distant from you injury. The objective is to stop the blood flow of the artery, coming from the heart. That’s why try to apply the tourniquet between the heart and the wound. This way the blood running through the artery will get stopped, still, the blood returning to the heart through vein will continue flowing.

Step -07

If the wound is below any joint, like the knee or the elbow, apply the tourniquet just above the joint. It would be better if you use a padding under tourniquet, like some clothes. Remember the concept, apply pressure to stop the arterial blood flow. Not to cut through the limbs. You can use a stick to tighten the tourniquet, as tying a knot might not be sufficient once it gets wet.

Step -08

Keep the wound clean and track the time you’re applying the tourniquet for. Do not leave the tourniquet for too long. For normal people, the tissue will start getting affected after two hours. If you think any medical help is still more than two hours away, try to apply ice on the nearby limbs to slow the effect.

Step -09

If the medical help doesn’t come immediately, the victim might experience shivering and thirst, especially because of blood loss. In that case, try to keep him warm with additional clothes or blanket and provide ample hydration. Talk with him and pacify him.

Step -10

After the help arrives, leave it to medical professionals to treat and remove the tourniquet. The tourniquet should not be released quickly, rather slowly, or else the blood will start flowing again.

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Nevertheless, consider some things in time of Tourniquet Application.

If the tourniquet is applied too loose, that might worsen the condition, because that will allow the artery blood to flow, while blocking other blood.

If the tourniquet is applied too far from the wound, that’ll have no effect.

If the tourniquet application is too tight, that’ll result in nerve and tissue damage.

If the tourniquet is removed before the blood loss stops, that’ll release the pressure and start bleeding again.


Nobody loves to discuss injuries and accidents, nor does anyone like to see himself/herself or another person going through it. But it happens every now or then, right? If something like this happens, the duty is not getting nervous, assessing the severity and treat the injury as much as the person can.

Remember, the injury might not be severe, but the after-effects can if left untreated. In some cases, fancy first aid box doesn't come into any use, if you don’t know how to stop the bleeding.

What is a tourniquet? We have discussed about it, its uses, how to use it and the drawbacks of prolonged use. If you have bought this necessary device, make sure you practice several times as soon as you get it.

We wish for our readers not fall in any serious accidents. But again, better safe than sorry. Stay safe and stay connected with us.

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