It’s always good to use the medically designed tourniquet as it’s specially designed for the role, but when you are in an emergency, in most cases, you have to improvise. Thankfully, there are plenty of materials you can use to make a tourniquet.
Some of the best materials to use are: bandanas, scarves, necktie, Ace bandage, Nylon webbing, neckerchiefs, and Sam Medical.
Although the first thing that comes to the mind of many people looking to improvise are belts, you should avoid using them as they often don’t provide a tight hold.
The only time to use them is if they are the only available option, and when using them, don’t use the buckle for tightening. Instead, use a long, sturdy object such as a jackscrew handle, screwdriver, or a small broom handle. Don’t use a pen or a small stick as it won’t be strong enough, and when you are tightening the tourniquet, it will break, rendering the makeshift tourniquet useless.
To minimize the risk of cutting the skin, ensure the material you choose is at least an inch wide. The preferred width is often 2-3 inches, so if you can find one that is that size, go for it.
How to apply the tourniquet
Now that you have the material to use for the tourniquet, you need to apply it properly to get the best results. Begin with locating an area a few inches above your injury between the wounded area and heart and wrap your chosen tourniquet material around your extremity.
If you have a belt, zip ties, or other narrow or hard materials, use a piece of clothing to provide some cushioning between the tourniquet and the flesh to prevent the skin from getting cut and inflicting more injuries. Remember, the goal of applying the tourniquet is to provide blood flow occlusion, not cut the skin and bruise the internal organs.
With the material in place, tie half a knot. You should be cautious not to use any knot that may stick or be hard to undo as you might end up killing the injured person in the event you make a mistake and you need to loosen the tourniquet.
After making the knot, place the stick, piece of metal, or any other object you are using for the windlass and set it such that it’s perpendicular to the tourniquet. You should then tie a full knot over the windlass.
Once in place, twist the windlass, so your chosen material for the tourniquet tightens up. You should stop the twisting when the bleeding stops, or there is no more pulse in the arteries located on the opposite side of the wound.
When the bleeding stops, secure the windlass object so that it doesn’t unwind.
How can you prevent complications from coming about when using the tourniquet?
Tourniquet use comes with plenty of risks, such as improper tying, extreme tightening leading to necrosis, and many others. To avoid the risks, you need to be cautious. Some of the things you should do to keep the patient safe include:
Watch the length of time you leave the tourniquet on
Although there is no enough data to show the exact time you should leave the tourniquet on, medical professionals agree that you shouldn’t leave the tourniquet on for more than two hours.
The reason for this is because leaving the tourniquet in place for longer than two hours increases your chances of developing necrosis and the injured person has to be amputated the affected limb.
If you have tied the tourniquet and medical help is taking too long to alive, cool the limb with ice or cold water. This will delay tissue injury and loss of function, and the doctors won’t need to amputate the limb even if you keep the tourniquet on for too long.
If you won’t accompany the injured person to the hospital, note when you applied the tourniquet and mark it on the person’s head. This way, the medical personnel will know when you applied the tourniquet and remove it if appropriate.
Ensure the injured person is hydrated
Due to blood loss, it’s common for the injured person to be hydrated, leading to plenty of complications. To avert the risks, give the patient as much water as possible.
If the injured is shivering, cover them with a blanket or any other warm material to keep them warm and comfy.
Keep the wound clean.
Although the essence of making the tourniquet is to stop blood loss, it doesn’t mean your work is done when you make a tight knot, and the blood is no longer flowing to the wound—you need to take care of the wound, so it doesn’t get infected.
The ideal thing to do is to rinse the wound with clean water then cover it with a sterile bandage but if you are in the woods or in a remote area where you can’t access these, keep debris out of the wound by covering it with a blanket or any other article of clothing.
Remember, you can be infected when dressing the wound, so ensure that you protect yourself by wearing latex-free, powder-free gloves.
A few things you should know about tourniquet application
While using a tourniquet is such an effective way to stop blood loss, it shouldn’t be your first choice. The first thing you should do is try to stop the blood loss by applying direct pressure on the wound. If this doesn’t work and the blood keeps seeping through the cloth or gauze, now is the time to apply the tourniquet.
Although the tourniquet will stop blood loss, it’s not a cure, so besides properly applying the tourniquet, ensure that you get in touch with the police, medical professionals, or any other relevant authorities letting them know about the injury.
Finally, when making the tourniquet knot, ensure that the knot is tight, and blood is no longer flowing. Remember, the tourniquet is always better too tight than not tight enough, so always double-check and ensure the knot is tight enough, and no blood is flowing.