Don’t believe everything you read. Don’t believe everything you see either.
How many of us have watched a movie or TV show and taken away information as gospel? Do you believe in the power of the tourniquet or that putting your chopped off finger in ice will preserve it long enough for you to get to the ER and have it sewn back on? What about the first aid gem often used to hilarious effect – the one where you have to pee on a jelly fish sting?
We’re going to look at six first aid myths and what you should do instead. Believe them – or not.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Use a tourniquet to stop blood loss
- 2 2. Stop your nose bleed by squeezing the bridge of your nose and leaning your head back
- 3 3. A shot of brandy (or whiskey or whatever) will stave off hypothermia.
- 4 4. Get out a paper bag if someone starts to hyperventilate.
- 5 5. You need to use a spoon to stop someone having a seizure from swallowing their tongue.
- 6 6. Reach for the butter when you get burnt.
- 7 We did say, “Don’t believe everything you read.”
1. Use a tourniquet to stop blood loss
Apparently this is not a smart idea because it can cause tissue damage. Instead use the standby, which is not a myth, and apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth.
2. Stop your nose bleed by squeezing the bridge of your nose and leaning your head back
According to St John Ambulance (as reported by The Guardian), all that blood running down your throat is more likely to make you puke than stop the bleeding. It’s far better to squeeze your nostrils and lean your head forward. Dr Richard O’Brien (medincenet.com) says that you should hold that pose for at least 10 minutes.
3. A shot of brandy (or whiskey or whatever) will stave off hypothermia.
You know that nice warm feeling you get when some sherry or brandy hits your tummy? Well, it’s very misleading. According to an article written by emergency medical technician Steve Shotz (International Mountain Bicycling Association), alcohol dilates blood vessels. If you remember your high school biology, this is how the body cools itself when it’s very hot. So, not such a good remedy for impending death by cold.
Instead, you should get them out of any wet clothes and get them into something warm and dry. Add layers and, if possible, add a hat, gloves and scarf. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate – anything warm, really – are preferred over anything alcoholic. Keep the person calm and still; walking it off is not an option.
4. Get out a paper bag if someone starts to hyperventilate.
We see this one on TV all the time. According to netdoctor.co.uk, breathing into a paper bag will cause oxygen levels to drop. Probably because there is no way for fresh air to get in and you end up breathing all your stale CO2. It’s like breathing into a plastic bag, really. And you wouldn’t do that now, would you?
Pretty much the only way to stop someone from hyperventilating is to regulate their breathing. This means getting them to breathe slowly in and out. They should inhale and hold for a few seconds then exhale and hold – like you would at yoga.
5. You need to use a spoon to stop someone having a seizure from swallowing their tongue.
We turn once again to the St John Ambulance guys who say that people who are having a seizure are likely to break their teeth on whatever you put in their mouth (provided it isn’t a sponge). They could also break the object and choke on it. And, you could get bitten for all your trouble.
They suggest cushioning the area, keeping people back and removing anything that could fall or otherwise hurt the person. Wait it out and when it’s over make sure that the person is breathing properly and place them in the recovery position.
6. Reach for the butter when you get burnt.
Dr O’Brien has one word for this: “ludicrous”. You need to cool the burn and keep it clean. Butter does neither. In fact, butter can lead to nasty infections. Instead, keep it under a running tap (cold, of course) and then dress it carefully. Use sterile dressing and over-the-counter ointment.
If it still burns like Satan’s hearth then put some ice on top of the dressing. Don’t put ice directing on your skin.
We did say, “Don’t believe everything you read.”
And we meant it. A lot of the first aid information on the internet is contradictory. Even some of the sources we used gave contradictory advice for certain situations – bee stings seem to be particularly tricky.
So, rid yourself of any doubt and sign up for a first aid course. It doesn’t have to be six month affair; after all, the ordinary person on the street doesn’t need paramedic level first aid training. A short first aid course will give you all the basic skills you need to know to cope with any accident or emergency at home, work or even on the street. Online first aid courses are also available, but nothing beats putting your training to practice on an inert dummy. Online resources will be able to tell you what supplies you need for a first aid kit though, from the basics at home to special kits for babies or senior citizens.
First aid courses are a great idea because you never know when an accident will occur or someone will be bitten or stung by a critter, especially in Australia which is home to 90% of the world’s deadliest creatures.