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3 don'ts when attending to a bullet wound [Video]

In the face of a traumatic event such as a bullet wound, quick and effective first aid can mean the difference between life and death.

People inside an ambulance [Image Credit: RDNE]

For individuals without medical training, the thought of handling such an emergency can be daunting. However, understanding and applying a few fundamental principles can empower you to provide essential care until professional help arrives.

This guide offers a detailed approach to managing a bullet wound, emphasising safety, bleeding control, and shock prevention.

It also highlights key signs to watch for to assess the severity of the injury.

Whether you are a bystander or a concerned family member, these instructions aim to equip you with the knowledge to act swiftly and confidently in a critical situation.

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Before approaching the injured person, make sure there is no ongoing danger to yourself or the victim then dial emergency services immediately.

While you wait for the first responders to arrive, ask the victim if they can hear you or respond to you. Then look for chest movement and check for a pulse on the neck (carotid artery) or wrist (radial artery).

Symptoms include pale, clammy skin, rapid breathing, rapid weak pulse, and confusion.

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Use a clean cloth, bandage, or clothing to apply firm, direct pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. If no cloth is available, use your hands to apply pressure.

If the bullet wound is on an arm or leg, elevate the limb above the level of the heart to reduce bleeding.

  1. Do not remove the bullet: Leave the removal of the bullet to medical professionals.
  2. Do not move the victim excessively: Avoid unnecessary movement, especially if a spinal injury is suspected.
  3. Do not use a tourniquet unless trained: Incorrect use can cause more harm. Use a tourniquet only if you are trained and if bleeding is uncontrollable by other means.

A tourniquet is a device used to apply pressure to a limb or extremity to restrict blood flow. This is typically used in emergency situations to control severe bleeding when other methods, such as direct pressure, fail to stop the bleeding.

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  1. Location of the wound: Head, neck, chest, or abdomen wounds are more severe due to potential damage to vital organs. Limb wounds can be serious if major arteries or bones are affected.
  2. Exit wounds: Check for an exit wound, which might be larger and cause more damage.
  3. Bleeding: Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding indicates a severe wound.
  4. Signs of organ damage: Difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or abdominal rigidity can indicate internal injury.

In Kenya, the treatment of gunshot wounds is subject to specific legal and medical protocols designed to ensure proper medical care and legal reporting.

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Medical practitioners and hospitals are required to report gunshot wounds to the police. This requirement is in place to ensure that the incident is investigated and to maintain public safety. The reporting should be done immediately upon treating the wound.

Despite the need for mandatory reporting, the primary duty of medical professionals is to provide immediate and necessary care to the patient.

While treating the gunshot wound, medical practitioners are also required to document the details of the injury thoroughly. This documentation is crucial for both medical and legal purposes.

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Once a gunshot wound is reported, the police will typically initiate an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the injury. This may involve visiting the hospital, interviewing the victim, and collecting evidence.

This content was generated by an AI model and verified by the author.

Editor's Note: In case of an emergency, contact 999 or for ambulance services:-

  • 020-2222181
  • 020-2222182
  • 020-2344599

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