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How to Make an Improvised Tourniquet, and Why

One of the oldest and most common improvised emergency medical techniques is the tourniquet. As such, it’s become a staple of wilderness survival. But what exactly is a tourniquet? And more importantly, how do you do it correctly?

To begin, let’s clarify as to what a tourniquet does and how it works. You’ll likely have seen one used in movies or shows where someone has an arm or leg injury. This is because a tourniquet is used to slow down the flow of blood to a limb to avoid blood loss from an open wound. This works by creating a restriction around the limb and forcing arteries closed. Tourniquets are sometimes confused for splints, which are used to hold a broken bone in place.

How to Make an Improvised Tourniquet

Needed items: tying material (cloth, rope, yarn, etc), A strong but short stick

  1. Get Clean. Ensure you are somewhere safe. Clean the wound of any debris and dirt. Clean your hands as well.
  2. Apply Pressure. Until the tourniquet is applied, you need to cover the wound with a cloth or gauze and keep pressure applied.
  3. Wrap The Limb. Using the wrapping material you chose, wrap it around the limb a few inches above the wound itself. Do not wrap it around a joint, though. If a knee or elbow is in the way, wrap it right above that.
  4. Tie the Stick to the Wrap. 
  5. Turn the stick, once secure, winding it up. This will create additional tension, restricting blood flow. Make tight enough to stop blood flow.
  6. Ties the Stick in Place. This keeps the tension from loosening up.
  7. Lay the person down. Avoid having the injured party perform any physical activity that they don’t have to. 
  8. Wait for help. Assuming help is on the way. Either way, you need a professional to fix it properly eventually. The sooner the better.

You can also purchase travel tourniquet sets, which work much better than an improvised one.

Don’t forget: being careful can avoid injury, and if you don’t have a lethal wound, you don’t need to treat a lethal wound.

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