Israeli Bandage vs Tourniquet: Best Treatment for Wounds

If you need to stop a severe wound from bleeding then you’re going to need the right form of treatment — an Israeli bandage or tourniquet. 

But which type of medical treatment is best?

Tourniquets are better for treating more severe wounds such as arterial bleeding. Additionally, they are easier to craft when medical supplies are unavailable. Israeli bandages are an excellent addition to a tourniquet for added treatment.

To learn more about tourniquets and Israeli bandages and how to use them continue reading below. 


A tourniquet is a band tightened around a limb to stop the blood flow to a severe wound in a pre-hospital emergency. Ideally, a tourniquet should only be applied by emergency first responders or those trained in emergency first aid. However, knowing how and when to use a tourniquet is crucial for stabilizing a severe injury before receiving proper medical attention. 

The section below will cover when to use a tourniquet, how to use one, and common mistakes made when applying one to yourself or others. Even when done accurately, tourniquets can cause damage to nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. 

When to Use a Tourniquet

When direct pressure cannot stop bleeding or when direct pressure cannot be applied effectively, a tourniquet may be required. When you find yourself or others in a situation where a wound is bleeding quickly and uncontrollably, it does not take long to bleed out, and immediate action is required. 

It is also important to note that a tourniquet should only be applied to limbs such as arms and legs. A tourniquet should never be applied to torso, neck, head, or joint injuries. 

What to Use for a Tourniquet

Tourniquets can be purchased, or one can be crafted from materials available to you at the time of an emergency. A CAT tourniquet, or Combat Application Tourniquet, is used by the military and features a buckled strap with a bar built-in called a windlass rod. The rod tightens the strap around the limb, and a retention clip is used to hold it in place. This is the ideal tourniquet to use but is not the only option. 

Anything from clothing, scarves, bandanas, belts or loose pieces of gear can be used to craft a tourniquet. A stick or other solid object can be used in place of a windlass rod for tightening the tourniquet to the wound. 

The key to whatever item is used as a tourniquet strap is for it to be at least 3-4 inches in length so that pressure can be distributed around the limb evenly. Items like shoelaces, wires, or any thin material should never be used for a tourniquet. 

How to Apply

  1. Place the tourniquet above the wound. You want to position your tourniquet a few inches above the injury. A good rule to follow is to place the tourniquet on the side of the wound closer to the heart. Once in position, tie a knot in the band similar to a shoelace without the loops. 
  2. Insert Windlass. Next, insert the windlass or the object you will be using as an alternative to a windlass. This can be a stick, pen, or solid object that will not break under pressure. 
  3. Twist and tighten. Twist the windlass and observe the wound until the blood begins to slow. Once it has completely stopped, secure the windlass by tying it to both sides of the injured limb. 
  4. Write the time. Now that the tourniquet is applied and the bleeding has stopped, you will need to record the time of application. The best practice for marking the time is using a “T” and following it up with the date/time. A tourniquet should not be on for longer than 2 hours. 

Common Mistakes When Using a Tourniquet

  • Not applying the tourniquet in time. Applying a tourniquet as quickly and effectively as possible will prevent the injured person from shock or even death. The quicker you react, the better when it comes to uncontrolled and rapid blood loss. 
  • Not tightening it enough. The tourniquet needs to stop the bleeding completely; otherwise, it is useless. Ensure that the bleeding has completely stopped before you secure the windlass. 
  • Not applying an additional tourniquet. Sometimes it is best to use two tourniquets when the patient has larger arms or legs. 
  • Loosening or removing the tourniquet. Loosening the tourniquet could damage blood vessels by allowing the blood to enter back into the injury. You should never remove a tourniquet, as this should only be done by a trained medical professional. 
  • Leaving it on for too long. Leaving a tourniquet on for too long could cause permanent damage to blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. In more severe cases, it could lead to amputation. 
  • Using inappropriate materials. Cords, wires, or shoelaces can dig into the skin causing more pain and is less effective. Make sure your band is 3-4 inches wide to distribute the pressure equally. 

Israeli Bandage

Israeli Bandage
Pfc. Debbie Vasquez – Amaro and Pfc. Hana Afridonidze demonstrate how to properly apply an Israeli Emergency Bandage

Israeli bandages, also known as emergency bandages, were developed in 1998 for use by the United States military. They work by placing a bandage over the wound and cinching it down with a pressure strap to prevent uncontrolled bleeding in emergencies. 

When to Use Israeli Bandages

Israeli bandages can also be used to treat wounds that bleed uncontrollably and need to be stopped. While they are similar to a tourniquet in that they use pressure to stop bleeding, Israeli bandages have some advantages. 

For example, if done correctly, an Israeli bandage can be used to put pressure on wounds to the chest, torso, and even neck! However, you must make sure that the airway of the patient is clear and they can breathe. 

How to Apply

  1. Slide the bandage through the opening in the pressure bar.
  2. Pull the band until the pressure bar is lying flat against the pad.
  3. While bandaging the wound, ensure you are wrapping towards your body. Wrap tightly over the absorption bar until the pad is completely covered. This will help prevent dirt from infecting the wound. 
  4. Once covered, start to twist the wrap to form a cord or rope shape. Continue to wrap this around the limb several more times. 
  5. Slide the closure bar underneath the twisted wrap to secure it in place.

Disadvantages of Israeli Bandages

While Israeli bandages can be a great option for applying direct pressure on a wound and securing it in place, they do have their setbacks. Some of these disadvantages include:

  • They do not stop arterial bleeding
  • Bigger and bulkier
  • Limited to specific types of wounds
  • Can be expensive
  • Not as easy to craft

While both the Israeli bandage and the tourniquet are valuable tools to have in your first aid kit, a tourniquet is universal and can treat more severe wounds than the Israeli bandage. When applied correctly, both options can not only stabilize a patient until medical treatment is available, but they can save lives!