First Aid Myths

1
What You Thought You Knew...

Jellyfish warning sign
Do you know what to do for a jellyfish sting?. Pete Karas/Getty Images

What do you do if your best friend is stung by a jellyfish? If you read the internet, you may think the right idea is to pee - as in urinate - on the sting.

Yuck! Wrong.

It's time to dispel some of the most popular myths in first aid lore. Read on to see the worst first aid ideas, demystified with the correct response to each emergency.

2
Scraping Off a Bee Stinger

Stinging bee
Bee stinging a human. Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

This is the granddaddy of all first aid myths. How fast you remove the stinger is much more important than how you remove it. Grab it, brush it, flick it -- it doesn't matter -- just don't spend time digging through your wallet for a Visa card to scrape it off.

Learn how to treat a bee sting here.

3
Sucking a Snake Bite

snake-bite
Snake bite extractors don't work. Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

 Drug store snake bite kits advise you to slice into a newly bitten victim and remove the poison by sucking it out. It doesn't work. It's not like the venom just sits in the wound, waiting for you to remove it with a two-cent plastic syringe. It gets absorbed into the bloodstream and moved around your body. Sucking it out with your mouth is even worse - the snake will just get a two-for-one special that way.

Here is the proper way to treat a snake bite.

4
Hyperventilating into a Paper Bag

hyperventilation
Don't use a paper bag to treat hyperventilation. Nina Shannon/Getty Images

Running makes you breath fast. Pneumonia makes you breath fast. Stress makes you breath fast. There are a lot of reasons why we hyperventilate (breath fast). In no case is a paper bag indicated as proper treatment. This one is actually very dangerous. DO NOT USE A PAPER BAG FOR HYPERVENTILATION!

Treating hyperventilation is a touchy subject if you don't know how to recognize hyperventilation syndrome.

5
Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting

jellyfish sting
Don't pee on a jellyfish sting. Erin

Hopefully, this is on a clothing-optional beach. Ooh! Cover your eyes, honey!

Urine only works if it is acidic. Depending on diet, urine is not always acidic. Therefore, urine does not always work. Vinegar, however, always works. Moral of the story: use vinegar

More information? Read Should I pee on a jellyfish sting?

6
Curing Croup with Steam

steamy-shower
Steam isn't going to cure your kid's cough. KAZUO KAWAI/Getty Images

A hot, steamy shower has plenty of good uses, but curing croup is not one of them. Comfort your baby in his own bed until his barking cough gets better and save the shower for you.

Why not, you ask? Read the answer here.

7
Putting Something in a Seizure Patient's Mouth to Bite

unconscious
Don't put anything into a seizure patient's mouth. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

While somebody suffering a seizure may very well bite his or her tongue, it rarely becomes an airway emergency. Seizures look scary, but generally do very little harm. You're more apt to cause an airway blockage by stuffing your wallet in the seizure victim's mouth than by leaving the victim alone.

Treat a seizure with less rather than too much.

8
Leaning Back with a Nosebleed

bloody-nose
Don't lean back with a bloody nose. Jupiterimages/Getty Images

I know, I know, mom's going to be mad when you bleed on your soccer uniform, but leaning back will cause you to swallow blood. Since your tummy doesn't like blood, you will vomit the blood. Gross, and it will definitely ruin your soccer uniform. Lean forward on a bloody nose.

9
Raw steak on Black Eye

black-eye
Should've seen the other guy. Tetra Images - Jamie Grill - Getty Images

Right out of a Popeye cartoon, this one. Putting raw steak on a black eye does nothing but contaminate the eye with whatever E coli is on the steak. This is all about the cold. Ice works just fine. If you insist on pulling something out of the kitchen freezer, try a bag of frozen peas - it's cleaner and it'll work better than the steak.

Treat a black eye.

10
Put Butter on Burns

sun burn
Don't make your sun burn worse with butter.

What is it with food and first aid? Butter and oil are great for basting, but unless you want to make a burn worse, leave them in the kitchen. Oils hold in the heat, exactly the opposite of what a burn victim needs. If you have to put butter on something - try the steak you won't be using for your black eye.

Treat your burn with cool water.

11
Drinking Alcohol to Warm Up a Hypothermia Victim

St. Bernard dog with a keg
Brandy won't help your hypothermia. (c) Jon Rawlinson

Remember the pictures of St. Bernards racing through the snow-covered mountains, kegs of brandy lashed to their thick necks? Didn't happen. They were carrying mail. Just because a Hot Toddy by the fire keeps you warm in the ski lodge, it isn't a good idea to count on the booze in your bota bag to warm up. Alcohol makes you feel flush and warm, but actually leads to hypothermia in cold weather.

12
Rubbing Alcohol for a Fever

child-fever
Treat a fever with a cool compress or a bath, not rubbing alcohol. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Alcohol on the inside doesn't warm you up and alcohol on the outside isn't a great way to cool you down. Alcohol dries very quickly, and that makes it feel cool. Unfortunately, it can absorb into the skin and it causes nasty results when it does. Never drink isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, and don't rub it all over your body, either. Reduce your fever in other ways.

13
Keeping Head Injury Patients Awake

child-head-injury
No need to keep her awake after a knock to the noggin. B Busco/Getty Images

"Don't let him go to sleep!" You've heard it on TV and probably on the football field. One of your buddies gets knocked silly and everyone wants to make sure he doesn't get any shuteye. How exactly does keeping one awake treat one's head injury? Hint: it doesn't.

14
Never Use a Tourniquet

tourniquet
Military tourniquets have come a long way. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

So, I've been guilty of perpetuating this myth in the past. Tourniquets have a bad rap in first aid. Used incorrectly, they have the potential to do irreparable harm. However, when they're needed, there's nothing better.

15
Counting on Good Samaritan Laws to Protect You

helping hands
Good Samaritans run the risk of liability in some states. Peter Bottema

Think the Good Samaritan

law is going to protect you from getting sued? Not so fast.

Good Samaritan laws

were originally meant to protect doctors so they would be willing to help in an emergency. Now,

Good Samaritan

laws are supposed to protect everyone. If only it worked that way. You know what they say, "No good deed goes unpunished."

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