Knives are sharp. Humans are clumsy. Put the two together and you’re going to eventually cut yourself, or be around someone else who’s cut themselves. (You’ll notice that I didn’t use a nauseating wound graphic to illustrate this.)
Most accidental cuts are minor wounds that only require routine first-aid: direct pressure, followed by a good cleansing and a bandage. Maybe even some neomycin to kill whatever germs the soap and water didn’t flush out. More serious wounds, however, require more serious treatment.
You may end up having to treat a wound (your own or someone else’s) that goes beyond ‘Hey, I just cut my finger!’ and makes your knees go wobbly just looking at it. In that dire strait, it helps a lot if you’re just a little bit prepared.
Direct pressure is the advice given in the Boy Scout Handbook, but you don’t always have enough spare hands available. A tourniquet is a fairly extreme resort, and should be used only for the most severe injuries to extremities. Luckily, there are two products on the market that can stop even severe bleeding almost instantly: Celox and QuickClot.
Celox is a granular coagulant made from chitosan, an organic substance found in shellfish exoskeletons. It combines with blood to form a thick gel-like clot that stops even extreme bleeding very quickly. It’s available in granular form, or as treated gauze wound pads. A box of ten small granule packets runs about $40.
Chitosan clotting generates no heat, but there are concerns that it could trigger allergic reactions in patients sensitive to shellfish. Published research and clinical outcomes do not indicate such allergic responses, however.
QuickClot is a mineral coagulant with similar wound-treating effectiveness as Celox. It’s a mineral so there are no concerns about allergic reactions, but it does generate heat as the mineral agent combines with blood to form thick clots. It’s sold as treated gauze wound pads, but medical professionals can also get it as a wound powder.
Early formulations of QuickClot (used in the Iraq/Afghan wars) could produce enough heat to cause 2nd-degree burns. New versions on shelves now won’t heat up past 120 degrees F. This may be a little uncomfortable (or then again, maybe not) but it won’t add burn injuries to the laceration you’re trying to treat.
I can’t personally say how well these work, because I haven’t witnessed any severe lacerations since I stocked up on coagulant pads. Nonetheless, my survival bag includes a couple of QuickClot wound pads, and our home first aid kit has several more. They’re not cheap, at around $15 each, but it’s nice knowing that even an unskilled responder can use them to stop severe, life-threatening bleeding that doesn’t respond to direct pressure.
Note: this article isn’t intended as a first-aid course (click here for that). Emergency treatments like these are designed to control immediate blood loss and prevent death. Once the bleeding has slowed or stopped, there’s still tissue and organ and blood vessel and nerve damage to deal with, as well as infections to prevent. As soon as anybody has a free minute to talk to the 911 operator, it’s time to call for that quick but expensive ride to the ER and a trauma surgeon.