A former attending emergency medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Zachary Lutsky has been practicing medicine for more than 10 years. Over the course of his career, Dr. Zachary Lutsky has managed and treated patients suffered from a variety of traumatic injuries, including gunshot wounds.
Although many people never have to deal with a gunshot wound, knowing a few basic first aid techniques for promoting survival following such an injury is important. As soon as you or someone near you is shot, the first step is to always get to safety and call 911. Once this is done, focus on stopping the bleeding. While gunshot wounds primarily cause internal damage, external bleeding is the only aspect of the injury you can help with if you’re untrained.
With gunshot wounds, the bleeding is typically coming from a hole. Using a clean cloth, gauze, or any other fabric available when a kit is not present, place pressure directly on the wound. For wounds that are deep, pack some of the cloth into the wound. Make sure the entire wound is sealed by the fabric and do not reduce pressure until paramedics arrive on the scene. Further, don’t be scared about using your knee to provide even more pressure if the wound is still bleeding.
In addition to applying pressure directly to the wound, use a tourniquet when the wound is on a limb. Place the tourniquet about two to three inches above the wound and pull it as tight as you can. When properly placed, these devices are usually very uncomfortable and even painful, but they can be essential for stopping the bleeding from a wound. It’s important that you remember to only use a tourniquet when it’s a professional one. Since improvised tourniquets often fail, it’s better if you apply continuous pressure directly to the wound instead.