To Tourniquet or Not to Tourniquet?


 Everyone should have some basic first aid skills so they can assist the injured in the event of an emergency. With the heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the UK, shootings in the US and emergency incidents occurring daily across the globe, the ability to remain calm and apply simple lifesaving techniques can save lives and limbs. Quali’s passion is to save lives and help the public understand the benefits and potential dangers of different lifesaving techniques. Our focus for this article is the tourniquet.

The tourniquet is a simple piece of apparatus that was first used back in the time of Alexander the Great to treat soldiers with wounds and amputated limbs. It’s usually a cord or a tight bandage tied tightly around the limb to stop the flow of blood through a vein or artery. I’m sure you’ve seen it in the movies where the hero or heroine takes off their belt, tie or a piece of clothing and ties it above the victim’s wound on their arm or leg. Although there is a little artistic licence to the effectiveness of belts and ties, you get the picture.

Tourniquets are an effective temporary way to stem blood loss from an injured limb. They have been used in the military for years, and have saved countless lives. However, guidance around the use of tourniquets is constantly changing. The technique is misunderstood, sometimes avoided altogether. To an untrained member of the public using a tourniquet can be scary, and perhaps even a little controversial. So, let’s set the record straight.

Incidents involving traumatic limb injuries are on the increase. Industrial incidents, road traffic accidents and terrorist attacks are some of the main causes. This has led to an uptake in the use and application of tourniquets.

Their use remains the subject of much debate amongst experts, especially around whether basic first aiders and passers-by should be expected to use them. Unanswered questions and concerns regarding potential complications mean tourniquets are not used so widely anymore.

What could go wrong?
A common concern around tourniquet use is that continuous application for longer than two hours can result in permanent nerve or muscle injury. They can also contribute to the build up of threatening toxins, which could lead to possible ischemia (restricted blood supply) and even death. The science is however changing, and proper first aid training will ensure you’re able to apply it safely and with confidence.

Quali is one of a new wave of first aid training providers delivering pre-hospital trauma care qualifications. They are designed to reduce the anxiety of making difficult decisions in unfamiliar situations, such as a shooting, explosion, knife attack or a significant life-threatening bleed from a limb.

‘The Level 2 Award in CitizenAID is a regulated qualification designed to teach members of the public life-saving skills for use in the event of a deliberate multiple casualty incident ’. A person with a survivable wound to a leg or arm can die from blood loss in less than five minutes. The current standard response time from the ambulance service is eight minutes. The numbers speak for themselves.

The qualification is based solely on the new CitizenAID Pocket Guide and Phone App. The 3-hour course teaches you how to react safely, prioritise the injured and administer life-saving first aid in extreme situations. You’ll learn how to use manufactured tourniquets and some improvised methods as well.

The unqualified use of tourniquets whether manufactured or improvised has potential serious consequences, one of which is making the blood loss worse. We do not advise that every papercut or scrape warrants a tourniquet, but we strongly recommend their use where there is a catastrophic bleed or if you are in a remote location and professional help may take a while to arrive. Applying direct pressure is still the primary treatment for catastrophic bleeds.

If a terrorist attack occurs, emergency medical services are likely to be held back until it is deemed safe for them to enter the scene. This ensures their own personal safety and increases the likelihood that the emergency services will be able to help more people when it is safe to do so.

Although your chances of being caught up in an incident remain slim, the potential for harm can be catastrophic. If you would like to learn how to help others and be more effective in a life-threatening situation, simply attend a first aid course that has tourniquets built into it. You’ll learn the latest lifesaving skills as well as techniques to help others in different emergency situations.

This article is not intended to scare, but rather to empower the public to learn what we believe is a vital skill. Our aim is teaching people first aid skills that they are confident to use when called upon. Do something today to help others… get on course to a better you.

By Adam Eeles – Lead Trainer

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