One of the most dangerous types of injuries you can sustain is internal bleeding. We see it in movies, on television, read about it in novels, and it’s always very serious. It almost always results in death without prompt medical attention. Internal bleeding is sometimes hard to recognize and even harder to treat without professional medical help. Let’s go over some basic symptoms and signs to look for to help diagnose internal bleeding and learn how you can help, especially if you can’t access medical care.
What Causes Internal Bleeding?
There are two types of trauma that can cause internal bleeding: blunt force like a fall or a car accident or penetrating wounds, like a stab wound or a gunshot. Either of these can cause internal bleeding, as well as external bleeding. Obviously, external bleeding is easier to recognize and treat. Internal bleeding is often harder to spot after an injury, but there are things you can look for that may help you to spot it.
Internal bleeding causes blood to pool in different places in the body, which can cause organs to stop working properly and oxygen levels to decrease dramatically. It can also restrict breathing or even cause hallucinations or vision loss, all depending on the location of the injury. It’s no surprise that internal bleeding is labeled a very serious medical condition. It can cause a person’s condition to quickly deteriorate if they don’t get immediate medical help.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these are possible markers for internal bleeding:
- Visible bleeding from nose, ears, mouth, or other body cavities
- Extreme bruising on the trunk or neck
- Coughing up blood
- Vomiting blood
- Abdominal tenderness and spasms
- Fractured bones or wounds that penetrate through bone
- Skin is cool to the touch
If you see any of these symptoms and suspect internal bleeding, get help for the injured person immediately. If you are stranded and cannot access medical care, then you will need to know how you can safely and successfully treat them without causing further injury.
Treating internal bleeding can also be tricky because it’s impossible to know if the bleeding is isolated or affecting multiple organ systems. In serious cases, the treatment of internal bleeding requires hospitalization and surgery, and it can be life threatening if not addressed promptly. If you cannot get to a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional, do the best you can to keep the patient still and warm. Watch for vomiting or signs of blood in any bodily fluids to gauge the severity of the injury.
While there is not a lot of intervention you can do without medical care, a good start is to treat the patient as if they were in shock. Try to keep the patient calm, alert, and coherent. This will keep the heart rate down and essentially slow the bleeding. You should elevate the feet, and keep them warm with a loose blanket. Focus on keeping the patient comfortable and still, and give the bleeding time to hopefully stop on it’s own. If you suspect a head or spine injury, then you’ll want to watch for any sensory or neurological functioning issues that might raise a red flag.
Basic first aid treatment can help to lessen the severity of a bleeding emergency, but once you have done all you can, nature has to take its course. Keeping a close watch on the patient will let you know if the situation is worsening or improving.
Internal bleeding isn’t always a death sentence, but it is extremely serious. If you can keep calm and work on treating the symptoms and injuries that you can safely address, then the injured person’s chances of recovery and survival are much better than they would be if no one tried to help.