Understanding the Use of Tourniquets in First Aid

Understanding the use of tourniquets is important, in today's blog we will be talking about  how this life-saving medical device can be used.

What is a tourniquet and when should it be used in first aid?

Short Answer: It is a medical device used to control severe bleeding.

  • It is used when bleeding needs to be controlled from an extremity, like an arm or a leg
  • Tourniquets are pull straps that are sometimes made out of nylon
  • It is important as it can save lives and reduce long-term health impacts. 
  • Tourniquets are also used to apply direct pressure and for wound packing

The Importance of Tourniquets in First Aid

When it comes to first aid, this tool stands as the last line of defense against life-threatening bleeding. The importance of tourniquets cannot be overstated, as they are incredibly useful during stressful situations outdoors. 

Le'ts take a look at the reasons for their importance: 

Immediate Hemorrhage Control 

Whether it's stemming the flow of blood from a severe wound, applying pressure to an arterial blood, or utilising a tourniquet in extreme cases, the prompt and effective control of hemorrhage is a crucial skill for first responders to have. 

By swiftly addressing bleeding, it can minimise blood loss, prevent shock and buy some time for medical help to take over, which will increase the chances of survival. 

Life-saving Potential

When deployed with precision and care, tourniquets can effectively halt the profuse loss of blood from a traumatic wound, such as those caused by accidents, gun shot injuries, or explosions. Tourniquets provide a lifeline to the injured, preventing the onset of shock and offer control until professional medical help can be obtained. 

Stabilisation for Evacuation 

Stabilisation is a vital aspect that occurs in high-stress situations where individuals need to be safely transported to medical facilities for advanced care. Whether it is a car accident or a natural disaster, effective stabilisation will ensure that the patient's condition does not deteriorate during transit. This involves immobilising fractures, securing wounds, and monitoring vital signs to prevent further injury. 

Limb Preservation 

The primary goal is to save the injured limb whenever possible while managing trauma at the same time. Ensuring a clean wound environment can significantly contribute to limb preservation. This will pave the way for successful surgical intervention and rehabilitation in the future.  

Time Buffer

A time buffer represents the precious moments and minutes gained through imemdiate first aid interventions. This window of time can be the difference between life and death, enabling first aid responders to bridge the gap between an emergency and advanced medical care. 

Types of Tourniquets to Consider for Your First Aid Kit

When considering which types of tourniquet to include in your first aid kit, it's important to choose ones that are reliable, easy to use, and suitable for various emergency situations.

Let's take a look at the common types of tourniquets you can consider:

Ratchet Tourniquets 

Ratchet tourniquets are a valuable tool in the field of emergency medical care. They feature a user-friendly ratcheting mechanism that allows for precise and controlled application of pressure to stop severe bleeding quickly. Their tightening capability makes them particularly versatile, and it accomodates a range of limb sizes. These tourniquets are popular in choice among first responders for their adapatability and simplicity.

SOF Tactical Tourniquet

This type of tourniquet is a renowned and trusted tourniquet widely used by military personnel and first aid responders. It features a durable windlass system, allowing precise adjustment of pressure, and a reliable self-locking mechanism so that the tourniquet stays securely in place. To read more about our SOF Tactical Tourniquet, you can click here

Combat Application Tourniquet 

Commonly known as CAT, it a widely used tourniquet used in both military and civilian settings. It has a built-in mechanism that prevents slippage once tightened, and has a compact and lightweight design that makes it easy to carry in first aid kits, readily accessible when needed.

Windlass Tourniquet

The mechanism to understand with windlass tourniquets is that it has a windlass or a rod that's twisted to tighten the tourniquet, applying the necessary pressure to halt blood flow to the injured limb. While they may require a bit more training than other types of tourniquets, they are a valuable addition to your first aid kit. 

Emergency Medical Tourniquet

This tourniquet has been specifically designed for ease of use during emergency situations, where quick action is required to control severe bleeding. It has a simple strap and buckle system, meaning it can be applied even with minimal training. Since it is not as sophisticated as the other types, it serves as a practical tool to have in your first aid kit. 


How to Apply a Tourniquet Safely and Effectively in Emergency Situations

Applying a tourniquet safely and effectively in emergency situations is very important as it will minimise potential risks that are irreversible. 

Here is a step by step guide:

Assess the situation

Evaluate the environment for potential hazards and ensuring your own safety and others as well. Taking a moment to assess the scene allows you to make informed decisions about how to proceed. It also helps to identify the nature and extent of the emergency and any immediate dangers. which enables you to take the appropriate actions and prioritise your response. 

Identify the bleeding site

This step involves careful observation and assessment to pinpoint the exact source of severe bleeding. By accurately identifying the location, responders can apply the tourniquet if it is an extreme case. This targeted approach reduces the time it takes to control the bleeding. which minimises other associated risks. 

Position the tourniquet

Once the bleeding has been identified, the tourniquet should be placed approximately 2-3 inches (5-8 centimeters) above the wound. The positioning is essential because the tourniquet compresses the major arteries that supply blood to the injured limb, which stops the flow of blood from the wound. It's important to avoid placing the tourniquet directly over a joint or a wound, as it can reduce its effectiveness. 

Tighten the tourniquet 

After the tourniquet has been placed above the bleeding site, it should be tightened to an adequate level. The goal is to apply enough pressure to occlude the arterial blood flow while avoiding excessive force that could cause additional injury or symptoms. Proper tightening is necessary to achieve the primary objective of a tourniquet. 

Secure the tourniquet

Tourniquets come equipped with a self-locking mechanism or a clip that holds the tourniquet in its tightened position. It should be double checked to see if it remains snug and does not loosen over time, as this can compromise its ability to control bleeding. 

Monitor the injured person 

It is vital to keep an eye on the injured person after the tourniquet has been applied. Check for any signs of complications or any changes in their status, such as numbness or pale skin beyond the tourniquet site. Additionally, reassure the injured person, keep them as calm as possible, and continously assess their vital signs. 

You can read more about our other tourniquet, the RapidStop Tourniquet here

Tips for Choosing and Storing a Tourniquet in Your First Aid Kit

When it comes to choosing and storing a tourniquet for your first aid kit, there are certain tips that you will need you need to consider. 

Let's take a look at these tips:


A tourniquet with adjustable features guarantees versatility, allowing it to accommodate various limb sizes. This adaptability is needed during emergency situations where you might have to apply the tourniquet to different individuals. Further, an adjustable tourniquet will increase the chances of fitting snugly and securely around the injured limb.  

Ease of Use

In high-stress situations, the ability to quickly and effectively apply a tourniquet can be a matter of life and death. Opt for a tourniquet that is designed for ease of use means that even individuals with not a lot of training can confidently and correctly apply it. Look for tourniquets with clear instructions and intuitive mechanisms. 


High-quality tourniquets are manufactured by reputable brands, meet the required medical standards and are approved by authorities. They are designed to withstand the rigors of emergency use, and have been tested by medical professionals. Investing in a high-quality tourniquet is a key factor.


In emergency situations, the tourniquet must be reliabe and able to withstand challenging conditions. Look for tourniquets that are made from strong materials that can endure any sort of environment, and its repeated use will not compromise its functionality.  

One-Handed Operation

When there is an emergency, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to apply a tourniquet to yourself or a companion, and having a tourniquet that can be applied with one hand can be a huge game-changer. Tourniquets that have the one-handed feature often have quick-release systems, which allows you to securely apply the tourniquet even under stress.  


Related Questions

Can a civillian use a military tourniquet?

Yes, they can use military-style tourniquets if they are trained in their proper application. They are suitable for civillian use in situations where heavy bleeding needs be stopped quickly and efficiently, such as accidents, outdoor emergencies or natural disasters. 

However, civillians do need to receive proper training in tourniquet application before attempting to use one. Applying a tourniquet incorrectly can lead to several complications, and should only be used as a last resort if other methods of bleeding control are not effective. 

What is the best type of tourniquet to have in a first aid kit?

Ideally, windlass tourniquets are exactly what you need in a first aid kit, as they can be used for emergency, military and medical aid. This type of tourniquet has distinct advantages, such as allowing for fine-tuned control over the pressure applied, which is key for minimal tissue damage.  


Tourniquets are used as a last resort in controlling severe bleeding. Seek professional help as soon as possible when using a tourniquet. 

Hope this article helps!


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