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Do you know how to apply a pressure dressing? Do you even need to know anything about it? Maybe you think you should do your work and let medical professionals deal with potential injuries. Ultimately, it’s anybody’s choice. But, there are many reasons why you should know a thing or two about providing first aid and taking care of injuries.

Injuries can happen to anyone, anywhere. Okay, we have emergency services and paramedics, people who are trained to respond and react quickly. But, should we really rely solely on them? It’s a question that resonates through almost every field of life. Repairing a car or home appliances, painting walls, fixing a leaky faucet – most people used to do it on their own just a couple of decades ago. Today, we seek professional help for the smallest hindrances and malfunctions.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows progress. Without any doubt, modern technologies make our lives easier. But, as a side-effect, we are becoming more and more dependent. Consequently, we are more vulnerable and powerless when things go wrong.

Our society shows many signs of potential disturbance, and if SHTF you’ll be completely paralyzed unless you take your destiny into your own hands

Even if nothing changes, there are so many situations where you may not have the luxury to wait for paramedics to save the day. Think of car accidents, hiking, hunting, and camping trips. Not to mention homesteading and living off the grid.

A more independent and self-sufficient lifestyle requires many skills. Providing first aid is among them and it should never be underestimated.

What Is Pressure Dressing?

A pressure dressing (also called a pressure bandage) is a bandage designed to exert pressure over a wound or other area. Typically, it has no adhesive and you should apply it over a thick absorbent layer, usually some kind of gauze.

It provides continuous pressure and prevents seroma and hematoma formation. These are medical terms that denote different kinds of fluids that may accumulate in a tissue underneath the skin. It also compresses dead space and as a result, decreases infection risks.

Applying pressure is the first line of defense in cases of bleeding. You can use combat gauze, cloths, even your hands to apply pressure immediately and prevent blood loss.

However, maintaining the pressure manually can be difficult. That’s where the pressure dressing comes in. After you apply a sterile gauze or another absorbent, you should wrap the pressure dressing over the gauze. It will maintain constant pressure and hopefully stop the bleeding.

pressure dressing

When You Should Apply Pressure Dressing

Applying a pressure bandage is simple. But, you also need to know when you should apply it. At the end of the day, a person’s skills matter more than gear. So, it’s a good idea to take some emergency and first aid training.

The course of action depends on the wound type. There are many types of wounds and a couple of classifications. Nevertheless, the use of pressure dressing depends mostly on bleeding severity. So, we’ll classify all wounds into three categories: minor bleeding, medium to heavy bleeding, and severe bleeding.

For minor cuts and scrapes, bleeding may stop by itself. A couple of minutes of applied pressure will most certainly stop these minor bleedings. You don’t need a pressure dressing for these wounds. Any kind of bandage will do the trick.

Pressure dressing is typically used for medium to heavy bleeding wounds. In this case, it may take 10 to 15 minutes of constant pressure to stop the bleeding. The pressure bandage should stay on until medical professionals are available. If it’s oversaturated with blood, don’t remove it but add the second dressing. If the wound still bleeds, you’re dealing with severe bleeding.

Besides accidents and post-surgery procedures, pressure dressings are useful to treat snake bites. You will need two pressure bandages for this. The first dressing goes directly on the bite. The second one is used to immobilize the entire limb. This technique slows the lymphatic flow and slows the venom down.

And don’t suck the venom out of the byte! It’s a myth and it doesn’t work!

When pressure and pressure bandage don’t work, it’s time for the last resort – a tourniquet. It’s a mighty device to stop the bleeding but it comes with some risks, too. If you want to know how to use a tourniquet you can read our articles on CAT and RATS tourniquets.

How to Use a Pressure Bandage

The application of a pressure dressing is pretty simple as I have already said. Still, if you’re dealing with heavy bleeding, you need to be careful. You should have a pair of sterile gloves and a sterile gauze.

  1. Place gauze or absorbing pad directly on the wound.
  2. Use your digit(s) to apply and maintain pressure and wrap the bandage over the gauze. You should wrap it firmly but not too tight. The idea is to stop the bleeding and not the blood flow through the limb.
  3. You can readjust pressure dressings if it’s too tight or too loose.
  4. Make sure to maintain the pressure using your hand. Removing the whole dressing and gauze too early can remove the clot as well and reactivate the bleeding.

Pressure Bandage with Hemostatic Agent

pressure bandage

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Some pressure dressings come with agents that promote blood clotting. There are different kinds of hemostatic agents and they can also be applied separately.

However, it’s easier to use a ready-made hemostatic dressing. It speeds up the process, but the procedure remains the same. It’s not a magic powder that miraculously stops the bleeding. Some of these agents have a bad rep as they used to release a lot of heat in the process. Modern products, however, are safe and effective and won’t cause burns or anything like it.


A pressure dressing is such a simple item, yet it can make a world of difference. Pressure bandages of today are designed to be effective and easy to apply. But, you can also improvise if you don’t have your IFAK at hand.

Whether you have to deal with an injury or a snake bite, it’s imperative to react quickly and limit the damage. The pressure dressing is a necessary piece of an emergency kit. Nevertheless, even the best possible equipment won’t save you unless you know how and when to use it. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it. But if the time comes, you should be ready.