First Aid for Trauma: Dealing with the Aftermath of an Attack

First Aid for Trauma: Dealing with the Aftermath of an Attack

You, dear reader, are an intelligent person—level-headed, intelligent, thoughtful. You know the importance of first aid skills, having a home first aid kit, and keeping your CPR certification current. The aftermath of a self-defense incident can be especially gruesome that may require first aid for trauma. While many attacks will cause limited damage—within the range of normal first aid—some extreme cases inflict trauma that warrants separate and special consideration.

First Aid for Trauma

Head injury is a distinct possibility in any self-defense situation. A blow to the head with a weapon or even a fist can do a great deal of damage. A simple shove or slip can lead to a cranium banging against a concrete floor with a frightening amount of force. When the dust settles, take a good look at the afflicted person and check for the following symptoms:

  • Blood or clear fluid coming from the ears or nose
  • Slurred or confused speech
  • Unconsciousness, confusion, drowsiness, or dizziness
  • Unequal pupil size or response, blurred vision, or double vision

These are all signs of a serious problem. Keep the patient stabilized, treat any bleeding as necessary, and get them to medical care as soon as possible. Bear in mind that some symptoms may manifest up to 24 hours later, so keep an eye on them consistently. Drowsiness, physical weakness, persistent vomiting, headache, or seizures may develop, and they’re an indication that immediate medical care is needed. Don’t delay—get this person to a hospital.

A severe laceration or traumatic amputation may result if the attack involves a bladed weapon—or if you’re unlucky enough to be involved in an automobile accident. This requires immediate treatment, so do not delay.

Have someone call an ambulance.

Remember the bystander effect and designate a specific person—e.g., “You in the cowboy hat! Call 911”.

Get the bleeding under control as quickly as possible.

Have the injured person lie down, elevate the affected limb/region, and apply direct pressure with gauze or a cloth. Bleeding should slow within 15 minutes. Keep applying pressure regardless.

Treat the injured person for shock.

There’s a huge amount of potential emotional trauma here, and that has physical implications. Keep them warm, try to keep them calm, and keep their airway clear—if they vomit, roll their head to the side and clear their mouth with your fingers if necessary. Now’s not the time to be prissy.

Take care of the amputated body part, if any.

Recover it if you can do so safely, rinse away any debris with clean water if possible, wrap it in a sterile cloth, and put it in a waterproof container, preferably on ice.

NOTE: The idea is to keep the amputated body part cool, not cold or freezing. Do not put it in direct contact with the ice—that can cause additional damage that makes reattachment difficult.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about tourniquets. While they’re a big part of pop culture’s understanding of treating trauma, in reality, they’re tricky to apply appropriately and in many ways risky. In general, direct pressure is preferably for first aid, and tourniquets should only be used in extreme cases or if medical help is delayed. I recommend a lot of research and training before incorporating a tourniquet into your first aid kit or plan.

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Sean is an avid hunter and firearms enthusiast. He has been carrying concealed since 2005. His main concealed carry setup is a Springfield Armory Mod.2 9mm carried in an Alien Gear Holster ShapeShift IWB although he does have different methods of carrying depending on the situation.
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Old 1811

I would never attempt to give first aid to a person I’d shot. If that sounds cold, hear me out.
First of all, how do you render the scene safe? If the person you’ve shot is obviously still conscious, how do you know he won’t continue the assault when you approach him? And if he appears to be unconscious, well, he might not be, or he might not remain unconscious, and you’ll have a close-range fight on your hands.
Secondly, assuming you aren’t shot or stabbed when you approach your downed assailant, are you really skilled enough to do him any good? Most people aren’t combat veterans, EMTs, or hunters, and have never had to stick their hands in other people’s blood and guts.
Thirdly, if you attempt to render first aid, you give up all your situational awareness. Criminals have friends (probably more friends than you or I do, since they always have money and drugs), and you don’t know who or where they are. There’s a reason every police academy in the country teaches contact and cover, and now you’re all contact and no cover. There’s also a reason EMTs won’t enter a scene till the cops have declared it safe.
Thanks, but I’ll just call 911 on my cell phone and wait for the pros to show up.


Spot on! It is asinine, bordering stupid to render aid to somebody who just tried to kill us.