How to Care for a Gunshot Wound

Gun violence is at an all-time high in the United States, with an estimated 150+ people getting shot every day. Unfortunately, these acts can be extremely unpredictable due to the massive amount of firearms throughout the United States in present times.

While anticipating an act of gun violence is rather difficult, treating a gunshot wound doesn’t have to be. It’s tedious to walk around knowing that gun violence can occur anywhere, but you can reduce the severity of the crime by knowing how to properly treat a wound.

Keep reading for some general tips on caring for a gunshot wound.

Stop The Bleeding Immediately

The first thing you should try to do with nearly any type of open wound, regardless of the cause, stops the bleeding. Ignoring the blood flow from the body can result in the victim’s body going into shock and causing further harm, or even death— a medical emergency known as exsanguination.

One of the best and most reliable ways to stop bleeding is to apply heavy pressure to the hole, in the case of a gun injury. Don’t be afraid to apply a hefty amount of force.

A tourniquet can be used to help the blood clot, but only if they are professional grade and applied properly. Makeshift ones are often null in the event of a gunshot wound. Instead, look to dress the wound in a gauze, towel, or shirt.

The only time you should avoid the blood from flowing is if the gunshot was to the victim’s head. Blood mixes with cerebrospinal (CNS) fluid after the brain expands (to prevent injury) and needs to leave the body through the nose or ears.

Call 911

This next step isn’t exactly a way to care for a wound necessarily but is a vital step in gunshot wound care. As soon as the situation with the victim is safe and you are able to reach a phone, alert 911.

For more help on legal or authoritative matters, visit here to read specific firearm liability laws.

Positions of the Body & Elevation

It’s a good note to not elevate anybody’s legs after they are shot. The elevation might seem like a good idea to help blood flow, but for the case of a gunshot wound, this is not what you want. Elevation can also compress the lungs, making it harder to breathe.

Get the person into a comfortable position if they are conscious. This can mean either sitting down or lying supine (face up). Unconscious bodies should be put in the ‘recovery position’ which is on their side with their top leg bent at a right angle.

Gunshot Wounds to the Chest

Gunshots to the chest need to be treated with extra care as they can cause a condition called tension pneumothorax. This happens when extra air leaks from the lungs into an area behind the chest called the pleural cavity. This air compresses hard onto the lungs, causing the lungs to squeeze tight together, which can lead to difficulty breathing.

To prevent this, dress the wound with an occlusive bandage to create a one-way valve where the air can safely leave and enter the lungs. A gauze will not work in this situation because the dressing needs to be tightly sealed with no extra holes.

Tape, foil paper, wax, and other similar materials in your first aid kit can work well here. Improvise as best you can and alert emergency medical services (EMS) immediately.

The Aftermath of A Gunshot Wound

The chances of dying from a gunshot wound vary greatly but are much slimmer than you might think. But then again, this depends on how many bullets entered the body, at which location, the severity of the shot (range and caliber of the bullet, etc.), and how quickly you can get to a hospital.

Follow the doctor’s professional advice after leaving surgery if you have a gunshot wound. Contact a lawyer on how to deal with the legal matters once you are healed. You or the victim’s health and safety are a priority here, everything else can be handled later.

For more help on how to care for injuries, please visit the health section of our blog.

How to Care for a Gunshot Wound
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