Advertisement

First aid myths and mistakes

First aid myths and mistakes
Getty Images

It’s easy to make a mistake when confronted with an injury or potential emergency. If you’re rushing to take care of someone – possibly even yourself – with a cut, a burn, or an allergic reaction, you might turn to a home remedy that you learned as a child or make a decision based on a common myth. However, first aid mistakes can increase the risk of infection or worsen an injury. In some cases, mistakes are more dangerous, or even potentially life threatening. Here are the most common mistakes people make and what you should do instead, according to emergency room doctors and other first aid experts.

Don’t miss these first aid disasters that are easily avoided.

Tipping your head back during a nosebleed

Tipping your head back during a nosebleed
Shutterstock

“Never do this,” says emergency physician, Dr Christopher Sampson. “This makes the blood run down the back of your throat.” Not only does this outdated move do nothing to control the bleeding, he adds, it can make you vomit up blood.

Do this instead: lean forward and pinch the bridge of the nose. Most nosebleeds – which are common and can be triggered by allergies or dry weather – resolve within 10 minutes. If yours lasts any longer, “pack it with a tampon and get to the ER,” advises Dr Jesse Sandhu.

Find out here how to stop a nosebleed.

Putting butter or ice on a burn

Putting butter or ice on a burn
Shutterstock

This age-old advice is plain bad-old advice, says paediatrician, Dr Christina Johns. Other no-nos include toothpaste and cocoa butter. “Sometimes when these home remedies are applied right away, it actually can trap the heat within the burn and make things worse.” Freezing the tissue with ice is also unhelpful, she adds. “The goal is to return to normal temperature and the ice can make the skin too cold.”

Do this instead: run cool (not icy cold) water on burns for several minutes, Dr Johns recommends. Cover with a clean dry dressing (like gauze) and get medical care.

Not treating a burn long enough

Not treating a burn long enough
Shutterstock

So you know now not to use butter or ice and that the best way to soothe burned skin is to run it under cool water. But a few seconds or minutes isn’t enough; you need to do it for at least ten to 20 minutes, recommends St John Ambulance NSW. The heat from a burn travels deep into your skin, where it can continue to destroy tissue even if you’ve cooled the surface.

Do this instead: run it under the water for 10 to 20 minutes. The cold needs to soak in to prevent further damage.

Moving a seriously injured person

Moving a seriously injured person
Getty Images

If you’re ever the first on the scene of a bad accident like a car wreck or devastating sports injury, you may be tempted to try to get the person moving to make sure they’re okay. Don’t do it. “They could have a serious spinal cord injury, and any kind of movement may result in permanent neurological damage or paralysis,” says Dr Sandhu. “The only time it is OK to move a patient like this is if there is a threat of imminent danger like a fire, explosion, or collapsing building.”

Do this instead: call 000. When you’re dealing with a potential spinal cord injury, the best move is to get paramedics there as fast as possible to transport the person to a hospital.

Check out these secrets hospitals won’t tell you.

Spitting on a cut to clean it out

Spitting on a cut to clean it out
Shutterstock

While you may have heard that saliva washes away germs, it’s more like the opposite. “The mouth is colonised with potentially harmful bacteria that can result in a wound infection,” warns emergency physician, Dr Robert Glatter. Another don’t: washing a wound in streams or rivers, which can leave you with a parasitic or bacterial infection.

Do this instead: irrigate the wound with tap water or sterile saline water. Dr Glatter recommends keeping sterile saline in your first aid kit when travelling in case you have unforeseen injuries.

Here are some tricks to avoiding germs that actually don’t work.

Advertisement

Giving antihistamine for a severe allergic reaction

Giving antihistamine for a severe allergic reaction
Getty Images

This is an error that can have deadly consequences, says Dr Johns. Antihistamines takes 30-60 minutes to work and that’s too long for someone in anaphylactic shock. “This is a life-threatening emergency and intervention with epinephrine should happen right away,” she says. In fact, a recent study on anaphylaxis found that too many caregivers and healthcare workers are not giving epinephrine. Other research has found a link between delayed or no epinephrine and death.

Do this instead: don’t hesitate to use the epinephrine. “If there is wheezing or shortness of breath, swelling of the lips or around the eyes, or rapidly evolving hives, then it’s very important not to wait to give the epinephrine and proceed directly to emergency,” says Dr Johns. If you have food, venom, or other severe allergies, you know the drill: always carry your EpiPen. Know your own action plan, since advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some patients are advised by their allergists to use the epinephrine as soon as they have one symptom or even known contact with the allergen.

Washing out a tooth that got knocked out

Washing out a tooth that got knocked out
Shutterstock

Most of us don’t know what to do when we lose a tooth. Although cleaning it off may sound like a good idea, resist the urge. “This actually damages the tooth,” says Dr Sampson.

Do this instead: place your tooth in a cup of milk and see a dentist as soon as possible.

Don’t miss these tips for healthy white teeth.

Putting heat on a sprain or fracture

Putting heat on a sprain or fracture
Getty Images

This will worsen inflammation, warns Dr William Gluckman. Heat boosts blood flow, which can make swelling worse. Save heat for issues like back spasms.

Do this instead: “Always apply cold initially,” says Dr Gluckman.

Check out these proven ways to fight inflammation.

Trying to remove debris from an injured eye

Trying to remove debris from an injured eye
Getty Images

Fishing around for the irritant can worsen the wound and even lead to permanent damage. The only exception is if you get a chemical in your eye; in that case, flush it out with water for about 15 minutes.

Do this instead: protect the eye – secure a paper cup over it with tape so nothing else can get in – and seek immediate care.

Read on for the eye care tips your optometrist wishes you knew.

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us: