10 First Aid Myths That Could Make Matters Worse

Rumors, myths and gossip. We hear some almost every day. But if we then spread that unfounded information, we can cause people great harm. That goes double for the many first aid myths that still float around society. Doing the wrong thing can have serious repercussions.

Most people have never taken a first aid course, so when a medical emergency arises they only have memories of stuff they’ve heard somewhere. Sure, they can look online for answers, but along with the credible sources of first aid information, there are too many that give incorrect advice.

Let’s dispel some first aid myths once and for all. A good start in this area is to buy a first aid kit and look through what’s inside, because doing that will tell you plenty about proper first aid procedures.

MYTH: Apply Butter to Soothe a Burn

Any oily substance applied to a burn will worsen it, increase the risk of infection, and impede healing. Treat all burns with cool water first. For serious burns, consult a doctor, paramedics or ER professionals.

MYTH: Apply Ice to a Burn

Ice will cause further damage to burnt skin and increase the severity of scarring. A burn should be left open until the pain stops. Cool water is what to use.

MYTH: Tilting the Head Back for a Nosebleed

Tilting the head back is definitely a myth. What it can do is potentially fill the throat with blood. Lean forward, pinch the nose just below the bridge, and hold it closed until the bleeding stops.

MYTH: Give Alcohol to Someone with Hypothermia

That stuff about giving a cold person brandy or rum is just plain wrong and harmful. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels which will cause heat to disappear faster through the skin. Don’t be too concerned by shivering – it’s a natural response by the body trying to raise its temperature. Alcohol can suppress that response. Give the patient warm water, soup, tea or coffee and pack warm clothes or blankets around them.

MYTH: Suck the Venom Out of a Snake Bite

Did this crazy first aid myth come from cowboy movies? It’s impossible to suck out the venom. It is not contained at the bite. It spreads into the bloodstream. Instead, call 911 immediately. Then keep the patient calm and lying down still, as any movement will speed up the heart rate and spread the venom faster.

MYTH: Induce Vomiting When Poison is Ingested

Inducing vomiting is no longer recommended by health professionals. Immediately call 911 or Poison Control or your doctor for advice.

MYTH: Breathe Into a Paper Bag When Hyperventilating

Shortness of breath is not always hyperventilation. The person could be having an asthma or heart attack, in which case breathing into a paper bag will worsen the situation. Assist the person to become calm and breathe more slowly.

MYTH: Restrain a Person Having a Seizure and Use a Bite Block

Neither of these measures is recommended during a seizure. Keep your fingers out of the person’s mouth, put him on his side, and clear the area around him to prevent harm.

MYTH: Treat Sprains with Warmth

Who knows how this first aid myth started? But apparently some people still do it. Warmth will only increase the swelling. Apply ice (or plunge the injury into cold water) and a compression bandage, then elevate it.

MYTH: Urine to Reduce the Pain of a Jellyfish Sting

What Joey did to Monica in Friends was wrong. Urine on a jellyfish sting could cause more pain. Instead, rinse the area with seawater and gently scrape the area to dislodge the jellyfish stingers. Only then apply vinegar and/or calamine lotion.

These are just a few of the many first aid myths that continue to endure. All of them are useless, and some can be downright harmful. PLEASE… learn the right procedures, don’t listen to rumors, and always keep a proper first aid kit handy wherever you go.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to First Aid Shoppe and a clickable link back to this page.

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing


Someone recently bought a

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Learn more
Ok, Got It

Your cart