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Common Myths About First Aid

David Burgundy | 10 May 2018

First aid factsHaving basic knowledge about first aid is a great life skill, and we’ve probably all heard helpful pieces of advice over the years. A lot of information, however, is just plain wrong – either because it is out of date and new understandings have been reached, or because it was never believed by experts in the first place. Check out some common misconceptions, and the real facts, below.

If Poison is Ingested, Vomiting is the Best Recourse

Poison can do damage going down as well as coming up. Instead of inducing a vomit, drink milk or take activated charcoal tablets while you contact your Poison Control Centre for more specific instructions.

Butter is Good for Soothing Burns

Covering a new burn with any cooling substance will help for a short time, but your skin will essentially keep cooking if sealed off from air. Submerge or hold burns under running water for 20 minutes to completely cool the area and numb the pain. Then cover it with gauze or clingfilm to prevent infection, and seek medical attention in the case of third degree burns.

When Experiencing a Heart Attack, You Should Lie Down

Lying down actually makes it harder to breathe. Instead, sit with your knees bent towards your chest and a support at your back.

Tourniquets Help Heavily Bleeding Wounds

Unless you’re trying to stem the flow from a major artery, all tourniquets will do is stop the blood flow to damaged tissue and cause possible irreparable breakdown. A better solution is to keep the wound raised and apply pressure to it.

Put Something in the Mouth of Someone Having a Seizure

Putting something into the mouth of seizing person was thought to help prevent them choking on their tongue, but it is actually impossible to do that. Moreover, they might damage their teeth or break the object and then choke on the pieces. The best course of action here is to remove all nearby hazards and put some kind of cushioning (even your coat) under the individual’s head.

Put Your Head Between Your Legs if You Feel Faint

If you’re feeling faint from not eating, or because you’ve just struck it rich at an online casino, don’t put your head between your legs! Although this does increase blood flowing to the head, you might also fall forward and injure yourself. Rather find a place to lie down and raise your legs to get your blood where it needs to go, without the risk of injuring yourself.

Heat Should be Applied to a Sprain

Heat opens the blood vessels, and can cause a lot more swelling. The acronym RICE is helpful to remember what to do instead – Rest the muscle, apply ice and compression to it, and elevate the area. All these actions will keep the blood from pooling and making things more uncomfortable.

Alcohol Helps with Hypothermia

A nip of whiskey will help you feel warm for a short time, but because it dilates your blood vessels it actually makes you lose heat. As well as this, when you drink it you may fall asleep or simply lose awareness of how cold you are – also very dangerous. Instead, have warm things like soup and coffee (which has the added bonus of caffeine!) to keep warm. Be sure to keep your head, hands and feet warm too, as most body heat is lost this way.

Urinate on a Jellyfish Sting

Jellyfish stings are only soothed by acidic liquid, and urine doesn’t always meet this requirement. In fact, it can do more harm than good by causing more venom to be released by the stingers. Avoid all of this by using vinegar, which is always acidic, on these stings.

Breathe into a Paper Bag When Hyperventilating

The idea here is that anyone breathing too fast is losing excessive carbon dioxide, and breathing this way helps to take it back up. However, studies have shown that this is ineffective. The best thing to do is try and relax, with slow breaths and gentle sips of water.

Now that you know what’s first aid fact and what’s fiction, you can avoid the pitfalls of these common myths and act accordingly.