Debunking First Aid Urban Myths
Debunking urban myths around First Aid is always a fun part of teaching a First Aid course. Trainers are frequently amazed by how many urban myths exist surrounding First Aid and inappropriate treatments people believe to be the correct First Aid response and treatment.
In this post, FACE will debunk urban myths about First Aid that keep resurfacing with each generation. Let’s start with the global favourite everyone has heard directly or via a TV or movie.
Urban Myth #1: Peeing On A Jellyfish Sting Will Stop The Pain
Not too many people exist who haven’t heard that peeing on a jellyfish sting will stop the pain. The reality is that you can pee on yourself all you like if you so desire. Urine has zero effect on the stinging sensation you experience after an entanglement with a jellyfish and can exacerbate the stinging sensation making it worse.
Use saltwater and something other than your fingers, even the sand, to remove any tentacles stuck to the skin and rinse the area in the ocean water. Once you return to the beach or car, a vinegar solution applied to the site will neutralise the jellyfish toxin.
An alternative to vinegar is bicarb Soda mixed with water to make a paste, then applied to the sting site liberally. However, carrying any white power substance in your car could lead to unwanted legal issues in some countries and leave you trying to explain you are not a cocaine dealer but a well-prepared First Aid responder. For that reason, vinegar is the best First Aid for jellyfish stings.
Urban Myth #2: Put Butter On A Burn
STOP! You might have been told to put butter on a burn. Don’t! This is truly bad advice and the worst thing you can do for any heat injury or burn!
Applying any greasy substance to a burn will trap and keep the heat from the burn in the body, exacerbating the burn depth and severity. The deeper the burn, the longer it takes to treat and stop the burn from doing more damage, and the longer time to heal the burnt area on the other side.
Instead: Run cold water over the burn to ease the pain for 20 minutes. Then gently dry the area and keep it loosely covered with sterile gauze and, where appropriate, burn gel. Get medical treatment if the burn is larger than a twenty-cent coin, begins to blister, changes colour, or seems infected. Do not pop blisters! The fluid under the blister has all the healing properties the damaged site needs to repair itself. Popping a blister will open the area to infection and leave a scar. The blister will naturally rupture when it has finished repairing and nourishing the wound.
Urban Myth #3: CPR Doesn’t Work Without Mouth-to-Mouth Rescue Breaths
Most people are reluctant to give mouth-to-mouth to a stranger for a good reason. Research has proven that only doing chest compressions works to circulate the blood through the brain, keeping it alive. However, without fresh oxygen filling the lungs given by the person doing CPR, chest compressions only circulate unoxygenated blood that starves the brain, causing it to be starved of oxygen and die.
Hands-only CPR is better than nothing, but rescue breaths are crucial for providing oxygen to the brain and significantly improving the chances of saving the person’s life.
Instead: Try mouth-to-nose, or mouth-and-nose combined methods if a CPR mask is not readily available. Hands-only CPR is two simple steps: Call 000 (or send someone to do it) and push hard and fast in the centre of the chest (100 to 120 beats per minute). Learn how to do all forms of CPR and help save a life by taking a FACE First Aid course.
Urban Myth #4: Tilt Head Backwards When You Have A Nosebleed
Tilting your head backwards or lying down when you have a nosebleed is old, incorrect advice that can cause more problems than it fixes. When the head is tilted backwards, the person swallows the blood into the stomach, which can cause the vomiting of the blood clots that block the airway and cause the person to choke.
Instead: Sit them up, leaning forward slightly. Gently pinch the bridge of the nose just below the bone for 5 to 10 minutes. Apply a cold compress to the bridge of the nose and forehead. Do not pack or insert tissues or gauze into the nostrils to stop a nosebleed.
Materials often stick to the blood and hairs in the nostril that filters the air as it dries. When the packing is removed, you end up ripping out your nasal filtration system causing extreme pain and a bucket load of unnecessary tears. Gently wipe away any excess blood exiting the nostrils and apply firmer pressure to the bridge area. If the bleeding persists or gets heavier and has not stopped after ten minutes, seek immediate medical attention.
Urban Myth #5: Induce Vomiting If You Swallow A Poisonous Chemical
When someone swallows a chemical, you might assume that vomiting it back up immediately would fix the problem. This is a truly bad idea! NEVER induce vomiting of a poisonous substance unless advised by the Poisons Information Centre or the manufactures instructions on the bottle state that is the correct First Aid response. Some substances cause more damage coming up than they did when they were swallowed.
The stomach is a giant acid pit, but the lining of the airway and throat are soft tissue that burns easily. By throwing up, you cause the substance to burn twice, doing twice the damage and still not solving the problem.
Instead: Immediately call 000 if the person is unconscious. You can then call the Poison Information Centre for advice about handling the situation until the emergency service arrives. Ensure you practice your DRSABCD and monitor and reassure the person if they are conscious.
Urban Myth #6: Apply Heat To A Sprain Or Twisted Ankle
Apply heat to a sprain to help it heal faster. While heat can be soothing for aches and pains, it is bad for new injuries and should never be applied to a sprain until the second or third day after the injury was acquired.
You should never apply heat to any injury or sprain in the first 24 hours post the injury. Heat will only increase the blood flow, and thus the swelling to the injury site intensifying the pain.
Seek medical advice and X-rays if you suspect a broken bone.
Immediately apply ice, ice sprays, or an ice pack for about 20 minutes for a sprain. Use the RICE treatment of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation for the first 24- 72 hours.
Urban Myth #7: Use Hot Water On Frozen Skin To Warm Up
Do not be tempted to listen to the myth that running hot water over a frozen area to warm it up. Use warm water that is blood temperature between 36C-37C degrees only. Hot water increases the risk of adding a heat injury or burning the damaged skin, unable to detect temperature and therefore unable to assess if the water is too hot and scalding the area.
Instead: Slowly thaw the skin or limb with a warm water bath no hotter than 40C. Ideally, use your elbow the same way you would test bathwater for a baby. If it is too hot around your elbow, it is too hot to apply to the frozen area.
You can also place the affected hands or feet under the armpits of either yourself or the person providing First Aid until the blood returns to normal temperature and the area is warm and normal in colour. Body heat from a source that is not hypothermic is ideal where heat pads and warming blankets are not available.
Urban Myth #8: Rubbing Alcohol Will Reduce A Fever
The urban myth that applying rubbing alcohol to the skin makes your skin feel cooler is flawed, and while you get an instant cooling effect, it is only on a surface level. Used in excess, rubbing alcohol can be soaked up through the skin and enter the bloodstream. For small children and infants, using rubbing alcohol to treat a fever increases the risk of intoxication and alcohol poisoning.
Instead: You’ve heard the saying: ‘Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.’ Paracetamol is a febrile agent meaning its job is to reduce body temperature. Try a medicine that reduces fever and contains ibuprofen or acetaminophens like Nurofen for children or paracetamol. Call your doctor if the fever is over 38C degrees. Call an ambulance if the fever is over 39C degrees. At 40C degrees, immediately submerge them from the neck down into a full-body cold water bath, shower or pool and call 000.
Urban Myth #9: Rubbing Irritated Eyes Relieves The Itch
When you have any small object in your eye, the feeling can be extremely annoying. You immediately rub your eye to remove the object without thinking about it. Stop! Don’t rub your eye. Rubbing your eye when there is a foreign object in it can cause the surface to be scratched, opening the eye to infection, and causing the eye to itch long after the cause has been flushed out.
Instead: Rinse your eye with clean running tap water or use an eye flushing bottle or First Aid kit supplied eyewash. Get medical care if the feeling continues as the eyeball might have been scratched or compromised, and require antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection of the cornea.
Any item embedded in the cornea requires immediate First Aid from either an ophthalmologist or a doctor. While not an emergency in most cases, a visit to your local emergency room where the correct dies and tools can be used to identify the object clearly prevents any potential or escalating eye problems leading to blindness in a worst-case scenario if left in situ.
Urban Myth #10: Bandage On A Cut Speeds Healing
Put a band-aid on it and leave it alone. Many parents have said those words to their child. However, putting antibacterial ointment on a cut and then leaving on a bandage or band-aid for a few days doesn’t speed up the healing process.
In fact, the opposite is true. Doing this increases unwanted moisture over the wound site and prevents the wound from drying out and forming a hard crust called a scab. The scab is formed to protect the new skin being created underneath and to be effective, it needs to be hard and kept dry with constant exposure to the natural surroundings, air and environment, not kept under wraps.
Instead: Clean the wound and apply an antibacterial agent once the bleeding has stopped by using firm pressure applied to the area. Where possible and depending on the degree of severity of the injury, let it heal in the fresh air. If you opt to use a band-aid, do so for the first 24 hours and then remove it.
For larger wounds that cover a greater area like grazes or gashes, change the dressing daily and try to sit in the sun for half an hour a day until the area has formed a crust that will harden to become the scab. Once the crust has formed, you no longer require a protective covering. If you choose to keep wearing or need to bandage a wound site, ensure to change the dressing daily or follow your treating physician’s instructions to keep the site clean for health and safety reasons.
Urban Myth #11: Coffee Grounds In A Cut Stop Bleeding
This one genuinely left us scratching our heads. This myth is so bizarre we can’t begin to imagine where it originated or who started this shocking myth! Putting coffee grounds into anything but a cup of coffee is the definition of a stupid idea and will inevitably cause an infection of the injury site. Worse, it won’t stop the bleeding any better than using dirt and is just as likely to cause you far larger medical problems. Caffeine has zero place in First Aid wound management but does have a use in First Aiding Asthma attack without a Ventolin inhaler.
Instead: If you have a decent pain threshold, table salt can be used as an organic and natural option to form a waterproof, airtight, bacterial-free wound dressing that, once set, requires no further treatment. It is the perfect ‘Mother Nature Band-Aid’ and is ideal for use by outdoor types.
The salt reacts with the blood to form the perfect seal and cost nix. Pack the area under salt and apply firm continuous pressure for five minutes or until the bleeding has stopped. It will sting!
That is how you know it is doing the job properly. It will take up to five minutes for the bleeding to stop as a guide, but it might take up to ten minutes in larger areas. If the site is large or deep, sutures might be required. If you can’t get sutures, pack it with salt and scream like a banshee until the stinging stops and then you can gently wipe away the excess salt around the wound (leave the salt in the wound area) and get straight back to business.
While salt is the perfect First Aid resource for cuts and abrasions, people with low pain tolerance levels and children might not want to opt for this treatment.
If you are not into salt … Apply direct downward pressure on the wound site using a thick layer of absorbent material. Then wrap the wound securely until the bleeding stops. If it continues to bleed or seems to need stitches, head to your nearest emergency room or doctor’s office.
First Aid Course Experts
In summary, we have evolved and advanced far enough that everyone should know what a First Aid kit is and how to use the content within to treat minor accidents and issues. If you have never seen the inside of a First Aid Kit, it might be time to consider taking a First Aid Course. Who knows, you might need to save a life one day. Make sure you know how to do it properly.
While you are on the website checking locations and the next course closest to you, drop by our FACE Blog page and read up on over 100 topics that will enhance your general knowledge and improve your First Aid skills and knowledge. If you are game to test your current knowledge, take our FACE Quiz and see how you do. If you blitz that, check out the link on the Blog page for an example of the real test you must pass to gain your First Aid certification.