How to Make a Tourniquet
Improvised tourniquets are not great substitutes for authentic ones. These are skills to be used when access to authentic tourniquets is limited. In the event of injury or emergency, these skills can be used to help in a first aid scenario but are by no means an alternative to professional assistance.
There are several misconceptions surrounding tourniquets. They are not to be utilized as a last ditch effort. Tourniquets are safe, and extremely effective. They have saved the lives of countless people, and have continuously proved their worth in preventing an injury from becoming worse when utilized properly.
Tourniquets should be used when an extremity (arm or leg) is injured and there is significant bleeding. Injuries could range from something such as a cut to a partial amputation. Tourniquets, even makeshift ones, are effective. Preference should be given to commercial tourniquets if available, but do not hesitate to make a makeshift one with available materials if the need arises.
Tourniquets cannot be used on injuries to the head or torso. We will cover how to treat a wound in these regions in another lesson. Once again, only injuries to your limbs can be aided using a tourniquet.
In the absence of an authentic, medical use tourniquet, a makeshift tourniquet can be made with the following materials:
- A band of flexible, durable, and wide material. You do not want to use something such as a thin string or wire. Use a band that is a couple inches thick. This is done to provide protection to the tissue and nerves underneath while still halting blood flow to the injured area. Such materials include clothing, a belt, gauze, or handkerchief. Ensure that the material is enough in size to wrap around the injured extremity.
- A strong, rigid, straight object to act as a part called the ‘windlass.’ The windlass is used to tighten the tourniquet, such as a stick.
Applying the Tourniquet
- Ensure that you are in a safe position to apply the tourniquet. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger. If you are harmed, you will be unable to help the injured individual. If possible, wear personal protection, such as gloves. Alert emergency medical services by calling 911 if you are in an area that has reception. A tourniquet does not serve as a final treatment to an injury. It merely halts blood flow long enough to buy time for emergency medical services to arrive. Stay calm! You will only make things worse by panicking.
- Find the source of the bleeding. In cases where it is hard to see, have the individual lie flat to better assess them.
- Apply pressure directly to the wound to see if this can help with bleeding while the tourniquet is being prepared. Ensure that this is the major source of bleeding. Keep the individual calm. Applying a tourniquet can be quite painful, so make sure that they know that what you are doing is being done to save their limb or their life.
- Choose a position several inches ABOVE the wound. You do not put a tourniquet directly over the bleeding area. The tourniquet should be positioned on the part of the extremity that is closest to the heart.
- Position your flexible band around the extremity at the position you have chosen. Tie the band on with a half-knot (also known as a square knot). This is the kind of knot you would make if you were tying your shoes.
- Next, you add a windlass. This acts as a lever to tighten the tourniquet. This could be a stick, a piece of silverware, a pen or pencil, a straight tool, or any other such item. Place the windlass on the knot that has been made. From there, take your untied ends of the band to tie a second square knot and secure the windlass.
- With the windlass secure, twist it around until you notice that the bleeding has slowed. Keep going until the bleeding has been slowed significantly or stopped altogether.
- Once you stop the bleeding as much as possible, tie the windlass to the person’s extremity to maintain the pressure.
- With the tourniquet in place, monitor the individual and lead emergency medical personnel to the individual so that they can provide final assistance. Know when the tourniquet was put on. You should not keep a tourniquet on longer than a couple of hours.
Make sure your tourniquet is at the proper pressure! It will be ineffective if it is too loose. Furthermore, do not leave it on too long. This will result in serious damage. Make sure you use the right materials, such as a band that is a couple inches thick. Do not use thin strings!
Above all, remember that a tourniquet should be applied to an area with significant bleeding quickly. If you wait too long, the person may bleed out too much. In some cases, a second tourniquet may be required.
(Sources: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-use-a-tourniquet-1298298; http://armyintelligence.tpub.com/IS0877/Gather-Materials-For-Making-A-Tourniquet-121.htm; https://firstcareprovider.org/blog/tk-how-to)