The Importance of Applying Pressure when Managing External Bleeding

One of the most important things you can do when confronted with severe external bleeding is to apply firm pressure to the wound. Learn why you need to focus on applying pressure and the difference it can make.


Paul McFarlane

5/11/20242 min read

When it comes to first aid, one of the most crucial skills to master is managing external bleeding. Whether it's a minor cut or a more severe wound, the application of pressure can be a lifesaver. In this blog, we'll delve into the importance of applying pressure when dealing with external bleeding and why it should be a fundamental aspect of everyone's first aid knowledge.

Immediate Action Saves Lives

Imagine you come across someone with a deep cut on their arm or leg, and blood is flowing steadily. Your immediate reaction should be to apply pressure to the wound. Why? Because every drop of blood matters, and in situations of significant bleeding, time is of the essence. By applying pressure, you're slowing down the bleeding and buying valuable time until the paramedics arrives.

Reduction of Blood Loss

The primary goal when managing external bleeding is to minimise blood loss. Blood carries oxygen and vital nutrients to all parts of the body. Losing too much blood can lead to shock, a life-threatening condition where the brain and other vital organs aren't receiving enough oxygenated blood. Applying pressure directly on the wound helps to reduce the flow of blood, thus minimising the chance the patient will deteriorate and start to experience life threatening impacts.

Promotes Clotting

When a blood vessel is damaged, the body initiates a process called clotting to stop the bleeding. Clotting is essential for forming a temporary barrier that stops further blood loss until the wound can heal properly. Without pressure, it will be difficult for the clotting process to occur, leading to continuing and excessive bleeding.

Why Pressure is More Important than Absorption

While some may instinctively reach for materials to absorb blood, such as a cloth or a towel, it's essential to understand why pressure is the priority. Absorbent materials alone are unlikely to provide sufficient pressure to staunch bleeding effectively. Pressure directly applied to the wound compresses the blood vessels, slowing the flow and allowing for clot formation. It's this direct compression that makes pressure much more effective in controlling bleeding compared to absorption alone.

Maintains Focus on the Injury

In situations where external bleeding is severe, it's easy to panic and lose focus. However, applying pressure redirects your attention to the immediate task at hand – managing the wound. By maintaining pressure, you're actively doing something to help the injured person, which can instill a sense of control in what might otherwise be a chaotic situation.

Empowerment Through Knowledge

Knowing how to apply pressure in the event of external bleeding empowers individuals to take action in emergencies. It transforms bystanders into first responders, capable of providing immediate assistance while waiting for professional medical help. This sense of empowerment can make a significant difference in the outcome of an emergency situation.


In emergencies involving external bleeding, applying pressure is not just a recommended action – it's a critical step that can save lives. By slowing down the bleeding, promoting clotting, and maintaining focus, pressure application plays a vital role in first aid management. It empowers first responders to take immediate action, reduces blood loss, and increases the chances of a positive outcome. So, the next time you encounter a bleeding wound, remember the power of pressure – it might just help you to save a life.