Back story.

Watched an episode of Arctic Air, (season three episode six), where they are practicing and hoping to become a licensed search and rescue airline.

Anyhow; two hikers gets attacked by a grizzly bear and whilst one get killed the other manages to throw himself off a cliff and ending up with his leg pinched under a rock. He also has big lacerations on his chest from the grizzly. Finally he manages to send a distress signal.

Though not licensed a team travels out to asses the situation. As they find the wounded climber they start to help. First they clean the lacerations by pouring alcohol over them, and then lay some bandages on top. After a while the injured man complains he is thirsty, and they give him water.

TLDR;/Question If I recall correctly one should not give water to a trauma patient. They can have internal bleeding and/or, as in this case big external wounds which likely has caused quite some blood loss.

Liquid will, IIRC, cause some bad effect on the re-production on blood, and might also affect existing blood.

Am I correct in this? If so; what happens and why should one not give liquid to the patient?

Guess there could be some situations where liquid is proper. E.g. patient has been laying in exposure to sun for N hours and dehydration might also cause ill effects... ? (Kidneys, blood-pressure, plasma?) But that might be a negative in any case if one suspect internal bleeding?

  • $\begingroup$ If you are satisfied with the answer, please do close the question by selecting it as the answer. $\endgroup$ Commented May 8, 2014 at 4:23

1 Answer 1


After some general research there are specifically 3 arguments that I came across that people give for supporting this particular theory.

1) somebody seriously injured might be given an anesthesia shot by the doctor or whoever that treats him first up for relief from the pain and distress. This would lead to relaxation of the stomach muscles and the contents of your stomach can travel up to your throat and into your lungs which would be fatal. Read about pulmonary aspiration.

2) the second case is if there is an injury to the gut or the GI tract, then providing water would be counter productive. A layman might not be able to assess the level of injury to someone just by sight.

3) the third is that giving water would increase blood pressure and (sometimes) apparently dilute the scars. This could also lead to chances where sutured wounds might reopen.

There are no real guidelines as to how much water can be given to an injured person. Depends on the situation or how much time he has been bleeding for and the kind of environment that he is subjected to like you pointed out. Some medics have recommended sucking on citrus fruits to prevent dehydration. Also, swabbing the patient all over the body with a cold compress can provide some relief and delay dehydration.

Guidelines for bleeding victims are here.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I do not recall where I have it from, but believe it was some first aid course. IIRC the tutor also mentioned some ill effects by giving water but do not recall the reasoning behind it. Believe he also mentioned vomiting -> bad if e.g. neck injury. Your answer gives good pointers. I dug up this discussion, but they seem to be somewhat conflicting in their explanations. nairaland.com/1460146/dont-drink-water-bleeding-injury . Guess the peristalsis mentioned by Lagusta might have been what the tutor mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – user129107
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ It's the first one. A trauma patient will likely need an anaesthetic at some point so the aim is to keep them nil by mouth to avoid the risk of airway compromise caused by vomiting. If they are desperate for water, the advice is small sips or being given an ice chip to suck $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 13:49

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