Cravat Bandaging: Series Post IV

A Guest Blog Post by Jim Ausfahl

Disclaimer: This material has been modified from the public domain US Military field manual, FM 5-80.

As a reminder, the triangle bandage is a piece of cloth, often unbleached muslin, that is a right triangle with legs about 40″ (102 cm) long, and a hypotenuse, or long side, around 56.6″ (144 cm). It is folded on itself three times to make a cravat bandage. Remember: for all wounds, the first thing to do is to control the bleeding, clean and cover the wound with gauze padding, and if it is available, some antibiotic ointment. The bandage is used to lock the gauze in place. In looking at the bandaging below, it will be assumed that has already been done.  This time, we’ll be bandaging the head and its associated structures; some of these will require two cravats.

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Bandaging the scalp is only modestly more challenging than what we’ve already done.  Begin by folding the long edge over itself three times, about an inch or an inch and a half wide.  Having done that, drape the bandage over the scalp, with the right angle going down the back of the neck and the middle of the folded part over the forehead.  Bring the two ends of the folded part behind the head and to the middle of the scalp.  To minimize the risk of this slipping up, put the folded part under the occiput—that’s the bump you can feel on the back of your skull.  Tie a square knot in the middle of the forehead to anchor the bandage.  Then, take the right angle and fold it up, tightening the part over the scalp then tucking the end into the folded part. If possible, and pinning it in place with a safety pin It is much clearer if you look at the diagram below

Bandaging the Scalp

Clearly, this bandage not only will handle the scalp, it will do well for the forehead and the back of the head as well.


There is an alternative approach to bandaging the head, which would be used for the back of the head, the sides of the head or the forehead or the ear.  The bandage needs folded into a cravat.  Depending on where the injury is, put the middle of the bandage on one side of the head; if the injury is to the ear, put the middle of the bandage over the injured ear.  Bring the ends of the bandage around the other side of the head and back to the first side, fixing it in place with a square knot.    For bandaging the ear, the cravat should go up diagonally, to leave at least one eye uncovered, then back to the bandage over the ear, where the square knot is tied.  The diagram shows the bandaging done for the head; adapting this to the ear is simple.

Bandaging the Head or Ear


Sometimes there is need to bandage an eye. Doing this requires two bandages, both folded into cravats.  Drape one cravat over the head, covering the good eye, so it hangs down the back of the victim’s neck and down his face.  Take the second cravat, wrapping around both eyes and over the first cravat, tying it in the front, over the uninjured eye.  Finally, take the ends of the first cravat and loop them over the head, tying them on the scalp so that the second cravat is lifted off the good eye.  The figure below will help this all make sense.

Bandaging the Eye


Sometimes, there is need to bandage a cheek, the area below the chin, a small area on top of the scalp or a need to immobilize a jaw temporarily, as might be for a fracture of the jaw or a dislocation of the jaw.  A single bandage, fold into a cravat, is needed.  Position the cravat under the jaw, with the more distant part of the cravat a few inches longer than the near one.  Bring the far side across the top of the head to the temple of the near side, then twist them around each other a quarter turn, so the two sides are horizontal, one pointing forward and the other backward.  At this point, the two free ends should be about the same length.  Take the ends around the victim’s head and knot them on the other side.  The process is illustrated clearly in the figure below.

Bandaging the Cheek or Jaw

The next posting will handle bandaging the chest, hip, buttock and shoulder.

Jim Ausfahl is a physician in active medical practice, in Peoria Heights, Illinois, studying the art of surviving in a challenging environment and sharing what he knows.

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