First aid myths: sorting fact from fiction
Anna Mepstead, Training Product Manager at British Red Cross
There are plenty of weird and wonderful tips about how to treat injuries and ailments. The trouble is that once people share their first aid tips online, they’re out there in black and white and it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Chances are that if it sounds like an old wives’ tale, it probably is, and unfortunately doing the wrong thing could make a situation more serious — that’s why we’re myth-busting three of the most common first aid mistakes.
First aid myth 1: If someone is having an epileptic seizure, put something in their mouth.
This is supposed to stop the person from biting their tongue but it’s the wrong thing to do for a number of reasons; they could bite down on and break the object, then choke on the pieces, or they could bite you — doubling the number of people who need first aid.
How to help someone having a seizure: Use something soft (a blanket or item of clothing is ideal) to protect the person’s head from injury while the seizure is taking place. Afterwards, help the person to rest comfortably on their side with their head tilted back, and call 999 if necessary.
First aid myth 2: If someone suffers a serious burn, cover it in butter straight from the fridge.
This is a classic example of an old wives’ tale; putting butter on the burn will actually make it worse by retaining the heat, and it could also increase the risk of infection.
How to treat a burn: Flood the affected area for at least ten minutes or until the pain is relieved. This can be done with any cold liquid — water is best but you could also use milk or bottled/canned drinks if they’re all you’ve got to hand — just don’t reach for the butter!
First aid myth 3: If someone has a severe nose bleed, get them to pinch their nose hard and tip their head back.
Wrong again — this will actually make the blood run down the back of the person’s throat which is not only uncomfortable, but it could also affect their breathing.
How to treat a nose bleed: Tell the person to pinch the soft bit of the nose and tilt their head forward. This helps the blood to clot and will eventually stop the bleeding.
Knowing what to do in an emergency could be vital for you, your friends and family and your work colleagues, so for more myth-busting advice or to find out more about first aid and life saving techniques, visit the Red Cross first aid training website.
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