First Aid Myths – Busted!

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first aid myths

How many of us have taken a first-aid training course in our lifetimes? 

From the Scouts and Guides to our workplaces, there are many times we’ve been taught first aid information. We even get hands-on practice with bandages and resuscitation techniques.

But, despite so much first-aid training, some misinformation has staying power. Unfortunately, the myths we’re about to look at are often the first thing that comes to mind in a first aid situation… So we’re here to set the record straight!

Myth Busters: Separating Fact from Fiction

Having first aid training under your belt and then using it in a tense, high-stress situation are two very different things. When under pressure, your mind can reroute back to frequently heard information rather than specific first aid facts.

Often, these myths are perpetuated by TV shows and films, which further cement the wrong beliefs.

Doing the wrong things in first aid incidents can cause more harm than good. You must forget the fiction and remember the facts! 

Let’s dive into the first myth.

Myth #1: Butter On Burns

You probably heard this gem from your nan. This is an old folk remedy that has been around for years. The thought behind it is to seal the burn against the air, preventing infection.

Well, guess what? You should never put butter on a burn. It can actually worsen the injury because the grease in the substance forms a layer that prevents heat from leaving the area, causing the skin to continue to burn.

It’s not quite the first-aid training technique we’re after.

Instead, remove clothing and jewellery from the affected area and place the burn under cool running water for at least 20 minutes. This will help cool the area and prevent the skin from continuing to burn. 

Myth #2: Tilting The Head Back For Nosebleeds

Bring back any memories? This was a favourite of schools in the 90s. We were told to tip our heads back in the event of a nosebleed to help slow the bleeding. 

Turns out this was bad advice and first aid training has changed since.

Though the instinct might be to tilt your head back to prevent the blood from dripping so freely, this method directs the blood down your throat instead. Yuck! Blood travelling down your oesophagus can result in nausea, vomiting and even diarrhoea.

Instead, pinch the soft part of the nostrils and lean slightly forward. Keeping pressure on the nostrils for at least 5 minutes before checking to see if the bleeding has stopped gives the best chance of slowing the bleeding quickly. 

Myth #3: Peeing On A Jellyfish Sting

You might have come across the suggestion of urinating on a jellyfish sting. The scenario was made famous by the American sitcom Friends, where Chandler pees on Monica during a jellyfish encounter at the beach.

Though concentrated urea, a substance found in our urine, could hypothetically help to unstick tentacles by dissolving the substance they use to latch on, it’s so diluted in urine that the point is moot. Peeing on a jellyfish sting offers no relief and can even cause the sting to burn more, not less.

Instead, rinse the affected area with seawater, remove tentacles with tweezers and use a cold compress to relieve discomfort and pain.

Myth #4: Removing An Object From A Wound

We’ve seen it in the movies. A protagonist yanking a piece of metal from an injured character in an attempt to save their life.

Removing an embedded object from a wound does more damage than leaving it in situ. Not only can it further damage the body on the way back out, but by leaving it, you’re helping the body stem the bleeding. Taking it out can cause excessive bleeding and haemorrhaging. 

Instead, remember your first aid training, leave the object in place and seek medical attention. 

Myth #5: Drinking Coffee To Sober Up

first aid

This is a common occurrence in films and TV shows. After a heavy night, we’re inclined to believe a strong cup of coffee will help us recover from a hangover and prime us for the day.

In fact, this myth couldn’t be further from the truth! Caffeine cannot reduce alcohol levels in our blood. It’s a diuretic and can dehydrate the body even further than the heavy night. And this can make a hangover worse!

The only way to truly sober up is to wait it out and focus on hydration and rest. 

Myth #6: Defibrillators Are Complicated To Use

A defibrillator can save someone’s life if they are in cardiac arrest. There will likely be public defibrillators stationed around your town, and there might be one in your workplace, too.

Defibrillators work by giving the heart of someone who’s in cardiac arrest a jolt of energy. This helps it to start beating again.

Sounds pretty scary, right? What if you accidentally hurt someone?!

Anyone can use modern defibrillators; you don’t need training to operate one. They provide step-by-step voice instructions to check an individual’s heart rhythm and will only instruct you to give a shock if necessary. So don’t worry, you can’t accidentally shock someone.

Myth #7: Use A Paper Bag To Help Someone Who Is Hyperventilating

Another piece of good old folk wisdom is to breathe into a brown paper bag to curb hyperventilation.

When someone is hyperventilating, they are breathing so quickly that they end up with too much oxygen and not enough CO2 in their bloodstream. Not only is hyperventilating scary, but it can mean you get dizzy and faint pretty quickly.

There are no scientific studies to show the paper bag trick works, and it can be dangerous to try if breathing issues are happening due to anything other than anxiety. You definitely shouldn’t limit your oxygen if you’re having a heart attack, for example.

Instead of ditching your lunch to help someone who’s hyperventilating in the workplace, reassure them. Encourage slow, deep breaths and call for help if needed.

Myth #8: Apply Ice To A Burn

Accidentally touching a saucepan or oven shelf can initiate a heavy instinct to cool down the affected area, and fast. 

Ice on a burn is a no-go, however. Even ice-cold water can potentially further damage the skin tissue. Because the skin is already damaged from the burn incident, you may accidentally give yourself an ice burn, too, which can lead to further blood flow problems.

Instead of applying ice to a burn, hold the affected area under cool running water for 20 minutes, then loosely cover the burn with a sterile dressing. 

The Importance of Proper First Aid Training

We can’t cover all the myths, and there are tons out there. But it’s safe to say we don’t advise anyone to rely on the telly for first-aid tips. 

Get proper first-aid training instead!

When you or someone you know takes part in official first aid training with a reputable provider like us, they reap a ton of benefits from the experience. From basic workplace first aid to mental health training, our training courses give participants an increased confidence to deal with first aid incidents at work, the skills to provide first aid in an emergency and the knowledge to keep your business compliant with associated legislation. 

Don’t Listen To Your Nan (Or The Telly)

Lots of what we know now supersede the remedies our elders taught us, but it’s easy to recall bad information in the midst of a first-aid emergency if the right info isn’t fresh in our minds!

To combat this, invest in first aid training for you and your team so that you’re prepared for first aid emergencies and can confidently deal with the situation. It could save a life.

We know health and safety at work can be a minefield, but we’re here to help. Get in touch with Envesca today to find out how we can make your workplace safer.

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