How to help someone who has been stabbed

Every day we are faced with news reports telling us horrifying stories of people who have been killed or injured from violent attacks. This violence appears to permeate across all communities and we only hear a fraction of the incidents. In fact, it has been revealed that the police and courts in England and Wales are dealing with the highest number of knife crimes in a decade. It’s a very real threat within our society.

We know that prompt and appropriate first aid saves lives. Would you have the skills to someone who has been injured and is seriously bleeding?

knife crime

In London alone, there were more than 15,000 offences last year. Stabbings are happening in all neighbourhoods around the country, and people want to know the best way to help.

Recently, a normal high street in Streatham, South London was the scene of a terror attack as a man stabbed innocent passers-by before he was shot down by the police. 3 people were severely injured and passers-by were able to give first aid.


First Aid for Life can help.

Our courses specialise in empowering people with the skills and confidence to keep themselves and others that bit safer.


We work with young offenders, youth workers, school staff and prisons across the country to help prevent street crime. For young people, we explain that they are 3 times more likely to be stabbed if they themselves are carry a weapon.


Our new eBook on first aid for stabbings is a vital guide to ensure people know exactly what to do if they are first on scene where someone is bleeding profusely.




Catastrophic bleeding is a common result of stab wounds, but it is not just confined to crime. It can happen anytime, anywhere and any place, such as in the kitchen, the garden and from DIY injuries. The techniques we teach such as how to deal with major loss of blood, recognising and treating shock and using a tourniquet are important life skills that could save someone’s life.




If you are first on scene and someone is bleeding profusely:


  • Keep yourself safe from danger. If necessary, Run, Hide and Tell. You will be unable to help anyone if you are injured yourself!
  • Protect yourself from blood if possible, using plastic bags, gloves or clothing.
  • Talk to the casualty if they are conscious and explain you are ready to help them.
  • If there is serious bleeding, help the person lie down and check for the origin of the bleeding. There may be more than one wound.
  • Use a non-fluffy cloth and apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • If the bleeding will not stop with extremely firm pressure, you may need to use a tourniquet or pack the wound.
  • If the casualty becomes unconscious and stops breathing, prepare to start CPR.


Major bleeding


If someone is bleeding the priority is to stop the blood coming out! ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES WHEN DEALING WITH BLEEDING


It is never a priority to wash a major injury – it will be cleaned in hospital.





Sit or lie the person down – to manage shock and prevent them from feeling dizzy and faint


Examine the area to see if there is anything stuck in the wound – if there is do not remove it


Elevate the bleeding area above the level of the heart to slow down the bleeding (although latest guidelines no longer recommend elevation as this alone will not stop bleeding and pressure is more important)


Pressure – apply direct pressure on the wound to stop the blood coming out




Shock is ‘a lack of oxygen to the tissues of the body, usually caused by a fall in blood volume or blood pressure.’


Shock occurs as a result of the body’s circulatory system failing to work properly, which means that the tissues of the body, including the heart and the brain, struggle to get sufficient oxygen. The body’s response to this is to shut down the circulation to the skin – causing it to become pale, cold and clammy. The heart speeds up as it struggles to get sufficient blood supply and oxygen and to draw the blood away from the gut, causing the casualty to feel sick and thirsty. They may also feel anxious, dizzy and a bit confused as their brain suffers from the lack of oxygenated blood too.


First Aid


If the person is pale, cold, clammy and showing signs of shock, or if there is a lot of blood – help their circulation by lying them down and raising their legs. Elevate the bleeding wound and apply direct pressure to control the bleeding.


Keep them warm and get emergency help.


Symptoms of shock:


  • a rapid pulse
  • pale, cold and clammy
  • grey-blue skin colour and blue tinge to the lips
  • weak and dizzy
  • nausea and vomiting
  • thirst
  • shallow, rapid breathing
  • may become restless and possibly aggressive – a sense of ’impending doom’
  • yawning and gasping for air
  • eventually they will lose consciousness, become unresponsive and may stop breathing





In environments where a catastrophic bleed is likely; tourniquets and haemostatic dressings should be an integral part of the first aid kit and all First Aiders should be trained in their use.

For the general public; you are highly unlikely to need to use a tourniquet, however understanding how to improvise and how and when to use one, could save lives if you were involved in a major medical accident or emergency.

One of the easiest way to make an improvised tourniquet using the contents of a standard First Aid kit is to use a triangular bandage folded into a broad fold bandage and tighten the tourniquet using your scissors as a windlass (if you have access to cutlery, such as a table knife, this would be even better as otherwise you no longer have your scissors available to use!)


Please note: A tourniquet should be at least 4cm wide to prevent localised damage to nerves tissues.

  • Tie the bandage around the bare limb –on a single bone (if the lower part of the arm or leg are bleeding, you should tie the tourniquet on the upper part, where there is only one bone rather than two).
  • The tourniquet should be at least 5cm above the wound (or 5cm above the joint if the wound is on the lower limb – never place a tourniquet over a joint).


If there’s a clean cut through an artery, for example deep incised wound, the artery can contract back up the arm or leg. This is why, it is recommended to place the tourniquet at least 5cm (or 2 inches) above the wound.


You may find other guidance on the positioning of a tourniquet, such as applying the first tourniquet mid-point over a single bone. This advice is also acceptable, so long as the tourniquet is positioned proximal to the wound (closer to the trunk of the body).


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Place the knife or your scissors on top of the knot and tie another knot on top of them.


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Use the knife or your scissors as a windlass to wind round and tighten the tourniquet.


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The windlass can be secured either by tying another triangular bandage to stop it unwinding or by wrapping and tying both ends of the triangular bandage around the ends of the windlass to ensure it remains in place.


It is important to note the exact time that the tourniquet was applied and to arrange for urgent transfer for medical help – ensure you tell them where and when the tourniquet was applied.

Please note it will be extremely painful for the casualty to have a tourniquet, but it is absolutely vital that the tourniquet is applied tight enough to entirely stop the bleeding.


If a tourniquet is not on tight enough it can make things worse as it can occlude the veins, but arteries may be harder to stop as they are less easy to get to and if the venous return is stopped by the tourniquet, the only place for blood to come out is from the wound.


Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life


Award-winning first aid training tailored to your needs – Please visit our site and learn more about our practical and online courses. It is vital to keep your skills current and refreshed.


It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.


First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs. Courses for groups or individuals at our venue or yours.


First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.





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