Arteries flow in the direction of the heart (red). Veins, on the other hand, are drawn toward it (blue).


You must be able to distinguish between a bleeding vein and an artery when attempting to stop blood loss.

Memorize this saying: Arteries spurt. Veins don’t.

Arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to tissues. Blood is returned to the heart via veins, which re-oxygenate it.

Arteries pump. Veins dump.

Step 1: Apply pressure.

  • To clean your eye, use a clean cloth or gauze. If you don’t have anything else, try using a gloved hand. If it’s yourself, use your bare hand as a last resort. BEWARE: You may be exposing yourself to a blood-borne illness if you stuff a wound with a cloth (the best one you have) or gauze and press down on it. Place pressure on the gash using any old shirt (cleanest one available).

Step 2: Determine whether it’s an artery or vein.

  • A vein oozes blood. Since there isn’t as much oxygen, the blood is probably a darker color and less oxygenated. The bleeding will generally subside after about five minutes of compression. If you don’t have access to direct pressure, apply distal (toward your fingers or toes) pressure instead. Keep in mind that it’s flowing back to the heart.
  • If the blood is gushing, it’s an artery. To pump the flow, arteries relax and expand. They may require more force to stop the bleeding. If pressure is able to do so, keep the wound open for up on fifteen minutes if possible. Then wrap it in clean cloth and apply a bandage to keep it from clotting. Before closing the sore with suture or adhesive, make sure the bleeding has stopped completely.
  • If you can’t apply enough force to stop the bleeding, try pressing down just proximally to the wound (the side of that’s closer to the heart). Remember, blood is coming from the heart. Arteries are too deep to feel them on your skin surface, but you may be able to feel their pulsing if necessary. If you can’t, press in different areas proximally until the bleeding stops. Then wrap and bandage it as best as possible.
  • The pressure of a tourniquet would not stop the bleeding if it’s situated near to but not on top of the arterial bleed (toward the heart). However, you may lose enough blood supply that your limb could be amputated. Wrap them only tightly enough to prevent the bleeding. If you can get two fingers beneath it, you’re probably fine, but loosen it every few minutes to allow distally flowing blood.

Tiny cuts and scrapes are most often capillaries. They join the arteries to the veins and are quite tiny. A little compression for five to 10 minutes should be enough to stop bleeding from capillaries.

Step 3: Get medical care.

Photo by Girl with red hat/Unsplash

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