In any situation or environment, an injury can quickly become something more serious and potentially fatal when there is a considerable amount of blood loss. When the blood loss is enough to cause alarm, you may need to apply a tourniquet. If you are out and about when an emergency happens, chances are you will have to make do with whatever you have on hand. Here are a few things to keep in mind about how to make a tourniquet out of everyday items.

What to use?

The first step in how to make a tourniquet out of everyday items is to know what to use. There are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Always use something clean. This can’t be stressed enough. When dealing with an open wound where a lot of blood loss is occurring, infection should be a concern. If you use something dirty for the tourniquet, you are opening up the possibility of infection tenfold. However, in a choice between using something dirty and using nothing at all, use something dirty because blood loss can kill in a matter of minutes depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Try to use cloth. The best things to use as far as everyday items for tourniquets are shirts, sheets, towels, or anything made of cloth. Cloth is easy to tie around a limb and it can also help absorb some blood to avoid an even bigger mess. You want to make sure whatever cloth you use is large enough in terms of length to actually tie it tightly around the limb where blood loss is occurring.
  • Use a belt. A belt is another choice for a tourniquet but there are some concerns. When using a belt, you aren’t usually given quite as much leeway in terms of how tight you can tie it. There is also the tendency to perhaps tie a belt too tight in order to make it work as a tourniquet which can lead to further tissue damage and muscle damage in the extremity. If you have nothing else on hand however, it is far better to take this chance than to let someone bleed out.

Tips for Application of Tourniquet

  • Remember, a tourniquet is not a cure! When you apply a tourniquet, whether from a shirt or a belt, it is only to buy the person some time until the medics arrive, or you rush them to the hospital.
  • Know when to place it. The fact that someone is bleeding doesn’t necessarily mean it is wise to use a tourniquet. A tourniquet is a last resort type of measure. The first attempt to stop blood loss should be applying direct pressure to the wound. If applying direct pressure to the wound isn’t stopping the blood flow, and it is seeping through cloth after cloth or gauze after gauze, something more drastic needs to occur such as the tourniquet. A tourniquet can also only be used successfully when it is an injury on an arm or leg. It is impossible to do one on an injury to the shoulder, chest, stomach or pelvic region and should never be attempted anywhere other than a limb. For those areas, the best bet is immediate and constant pressure applied to the wound while en route to emergency medical attention.
  • Know where to place it. A tourniquet should be placed 1 to 2 inches above the open wound. If this doesn’t stop the bleeding, remove it and try placing it higher up on the leg or arm and retighten it to see if that stops the blood loss.
  • Tie it tight. Many people when they apply a tourniquet they don’t tie it tight enough. It can be hard to gauge how tight to tie it, especially since many people panic in an emergency situation, but the goal is to stop the blood loss which means, in essence, stopping the blood flow. It is better to tie it too tight than not tight enough is a pretty good motto.
  • If you will be driving to civilization from a remote area to the nearest hospital, it is important to remember to loosen the tourniquet for around 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of it being on. If the limb doesn’t get blood flow for too long, you are looking at an amputation.