If you have not taken part in an official first aid training course, it can be difficult to distinguish between legitimate advice and common myths. You may have heard certain dos and don’ts on the grapevine but how many of them are actually factual? To help you out, we have compiled a list of what we consider to be the 7 biggest common first aid myths.
1 – Tilting your head backwards to stop a nosebleed
Perhaps the most common first aid myth is to tilt your head backwards to alleviate a nosebleed. In fact, doing so could cause the blood to trickle down your throat and swallowing it may lead to stomach irritation or even vomiting.
Instead, you should actually lean forward and pinch the soft part of your nose. This will allow the blood to drain from your nose safely and after 10-15 minutes, the bleeding should have stopped. Placing something cold like an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables across your nose while covered by a towel will also help.
2 – Treating a burn by using butter or cream
You may have heard that the best way to treat a burn is to cover it with butter or antiseptic cream, however this is not the case. Applying butter or a similarly oily substance can actually irritate the burn as the grease will prevent the heat from leaving the skin, elongating the healing process.
The best way to treat a burn is by running the affected area under a cold tap for around 20 minutes. If possible, you should bandage the burnt skin as this will help reduce pain and will protect the skin from any further damage.
3 – Putting someone’s head in between their legs if they have fainted
This particular myth stems from the idea that it will increase the blood flow going to the person’s head, helping them to feel less faint. While this is correct in theory, there is a risk that the person could fall forwards and hurt themselves further.
It is advisable that when someone faints or feels faint, you should safely lay them down and raise their legs. This will do the same job as placing their head between their knees, but eliminates the risk of them falling. If possible, you should also try to loosen up any constrictive clothing such as belts or shirt collars.
If the person does not regain consciousness within a minute, you should proceed to call an ambulance.
4 – Placing something in the mouth of someone having a seizure
It is a common misconception that when someone is having a seizure, you should place something in their mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue. It is actually not possible for someone to swallow their tongue, and placing something in their mouths can harm their jaw, teeth and gums.
If you are present when someone is having a seizure, you should do your best to protect them from injuring themselves by clearing the space and removing any potentially harmful objects. It is also important to cushion their heads and once the jerking has stopped, placing them in the recovery position will assist their breathing.
Having a seizure can be very confusing for the person, so staying with them until they are awake and reassuring them once they have regained consciousness can be a huge help. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, the person has trouble breathing, or this is the first time they have had a seizure, you should call for an ambulance.
5 – Treating a sprain with heat
As heat can be used to successfully help treat aches and pains, it is believed that the same treatment will aid sprains, however this is a common misconception. For the first three days, heat should be avoided as a treatment because it may cause swelling and/or inflammation.
For a sprain, the affected area should be rested and elevated. Using compression and applying an ice pack will be your best bet in reducing any swelling. Some sprains can take a long time to fully recover, but if you are still experiencing a lot of discomfort over a lengthy period of time, you should book an appointment in with your doctor.
6 – Only performing CPR or using a defibrillator if you are medically trained
Many people without first aid training are hesitant about using a public defibrillator or performing CPR, understandably being worried that they may cause more harm than good. The defibrillator in particular can appear to be a daunting piece of equipment to use for someone who is inexperienced, while you may have heard that conducting CPR incorrectly can seriously harm someone.
Defibrillators are readily available so that members of the public can assist those who are having serious medical issues, so you should not be afraid of using them. The machine itself speaks to its user, giving clear instructions. It will then measure the person’s heartbeat and detect whether or not a shock is necessary, meaning you will not have to make the decision.
No matter if you have formal training or not, it is important and sometimes crucial that someone takes action. Medical professionals have said that performing CPR is very unlikely to harm the person being treated and even an imperfect technique can still save someone’s life.
7 – Thinking a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are the same thing
More often than not, the terms ‘heart attack’ and ‘cardiac arrest’ are used interchangeably however there are clear differences that distinguish them from each other. According to the British Heart Foundation, a heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked, meaning that the heart does not get its necessary blood supply.
A cardiac arrest is when someone’s heart stops pumping blood around the body and they stop breathing regularly. A cardiac arrest is caused by a heart attack, which is why they are so synonymous with each other.
Heart attacks and cardiac arrests are both extremely dangerous and life-threatening, so you should call an ambulance straight away.
We hope that this list has helped dispel any myths you may have had about first aid. Flagship Partners offers a range of first aid training courses as well as health and safety consultancy services in Peterborough.
Elsewhere on our site you can also find our comprehensive First Aid at Work – What You Need to Know article for more details.