Survival First Aid – 5 Weird Stitches for Emergencies

Think you won’t need survival first aid skills?

It can happen to anyone. You can get lost in the woods, find yourself stranded after a hurricane or flood, or even get left on a desert island. (Hey, crazier things have happened.) What makes the matter worse is that you’ve sustained a wound and you are bleeding badly. You are miles away from the nearest hospital, and a team of medically trained doctors and nurses are nowhere in sight. 

What must you do in order to survive this drastic situation? Would you know how to stop the bleeding?

In a normal situation, a person with a deep gushing wound would, naturally, need stitches and sterile bandages. Of course, if you find yourself alone without access to modern medical treatment, you could be in serious trouble if you have zero idea of what to do.

Survival First Aid Tips for Severe Lacerations

First, make sure that the wound is elevated above your heart. Elevating the wound will minimize the amount of blood loss. Next, apply some pressure directly on the wound itself. It will hurt, but do so in order to regulate the flow of blood around the damaged area.

survival first aid - laceration vs. puncture woundIllustration courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

If simply applying pressure hasn’t stopped the blood flow (it should stop or greatly reduce after a few minutes), you may need to take more drastic measures to prevent life-threatening blood loss.

5 Improvised Stitches

Follow these survival first aid steps in order to treat a serious wound in an emergency situation:

1. Tourniquet

The easiest, least painful method of stopping blood flow from a large open wound, is to create a tourniquet out of a strip of clothing, belt, shoelace, length of paracord or, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, some vines.

survival first aid - tourniquetIllustration courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

Tourniquets should be placed above the wound (between the wound and your heart) in order to reduce blood flow. Do not tighten the tourniquet too tightly, as this can cut off circulation completely, which can result in pain, numbness and if left too long, death of tissue.

This survival first aid technique, of course, only works for wounds on limbs. For deep cuts on your torso, neck and head, you must improvise a means of closing the cut to prevent severe blood loss and infection.

2. Tape

You may be able to close a wound if you have a thick, heavy-duty roll of tape (like duct, electrical or packing tape), although, any tape will, of course, have to do in an emergency. With this method, make sure the area around the wound is as clean and dry as possible, to allow the adhesive to stick.

Pinch the skin together and place the tape over the wound, pulling it tightly together. This is just a temporary fix, as the tape will loosen as the skin underneath begins to sweat. The idea is to close the wound long enough for the wound to clot.

3. Superglue

Superglue is so effective at closing wounds that the U.S. military recommends its use in emergency situations. Clean out the wound, pinch the skin together and dab the glue along the wound. You’ll need to keep pinching the skin until it sets (about 30 seconds), then slowly release pressure. Repeat if necessary. When the glue holds, you’ll have to monitor the wound frequently to ensure the wound hasn’t been allowed to separate. Reapply glue as needed until proper medical help is available.

4. Stitching

If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after several minutes of compression, you may need to stitch the wound yourself. If you have a needle and thread, sterilize them with alcohol. Or, if alcohol is unavailable, just sterilize the needle by placing it in a fire for a few seconds. If you have it, fishing line makes some of the best improvised sutures.

survival first aid - stitchesIllustration courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

To make stitching easier and less painful (the stitches will be shallower), bend the sharp end of the needle so the needle resembles the shape of a “J”. Thread the string through the eye of the needle and, starting on one end of the cut, stitch the skin together by pulling the thread tight as you go. Do not pull too tightly in order to prevent the thread from breaking.

Another option is to use dental floss in lieu of thread. Dental floss is strong, resistant to moisture (the waxed versions), pliable, compact and, like paracord, has a number of uses in emergency situations.

SURVIVAL FIRST AID TIP: A great addition to any survival kit or bug out bag is a pack of dental floss and needle. Simply flip open the floss cap and pull out the top (with the metal cutter). Place a few needles inside and you’ve got an improvised sewing/medical kit.

5. Stapling, Pinning

If you’re in a very desperate survival first aid situation and you must close a wound, another option is stapling. This is a very crude method, as standard office staplers will only push a staple down into the skin, modern medical stapling devices will crimp the staples laterally, pinching the skin closed tightly. Wounds on portions of the body where skin is stretched tightly and cuts open very wide (like across the chest), pinching the skin together and stapling in place will provide a temporary fix until proper medical care can be reached.

NOTE: Since the staples won’t be crimped, they may fall out if the wound isn’t bandaged.

A better, though significantly more painful, option is to use safety pins. Like the needle and thread, the pins should be sterilized as best as possible, with alcohol or fire. In order to close the wound properly, you’ll need to pin through a large amount of skin around the wound to keep it tightly closed. (Otherwise the pin will just slide back and forth and the wound will remain open.) Space the safety pins every half inch or so along the cut.

Once blood is not gushing out of the wound anymore, find some clean water and pour it on the wound. If there is no water available, you need to find help as soon as possible. You may have stopped the bleeding, but the risk of infection is still high.

Use these survival first aid tips to treat deep lacerations in an emergency.

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