Top 14 First Aid Myths

What do you do if your best friend is stung by a jellyfish? If you read the internet, you may think the right idea is to pee on the sting.

Yuck! Wrong.

It's time to dispel some of the most popular myths in first aid lore. Read on to see the worst first aid ideas, demystified with the correct response to each emergency.


Scraping Off a Bee Stinger

Wasp on a person's finger

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This is the granddaddy of all first aid myths. How fast you remove the stinger is much more important than how you remove it. Grab it, brush it, flick it—it doesn't matter—just don't spend time digging through your wallet for a Visa card to scrape it off.


Sucking a Snake Bite

Person using a snake bite kit

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Drug store snake bite kits advise you to slice into a newly bitten victim and remove the poison by sucking it out. It doesn't work. It's not like the venom just sits in the wound, waiting for you to remove it with a two-cent plastic syringe. It gets absorbed into the bloodstream and moved around your body. Sucking it out with your mouth is even worse—the snake will just get a two-for-one special that way.


Hyperventilating Into a Paper Bag

Girl breating into a paper bag

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Running makes you breathe fast. Pneumonia makes you breathe fast. Stress makes you breathe fast. There are a lot of reasons why we hyperventilate (breathe fast). In no case is a paper bag indicated as proper treatment. This one is actually very dangerous. Do not use a paper bag for hyperventilation!

Treating hyperventilation is a touchy subject if you don't know how to recognize hyperventilation syndrome.


Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting

Jellyfish warning sign
Pete Karas / E+ / Getty Images

Hopefully, this is on a clothing-optional beach. Ooh! Cover your eyes, honey!

Urine only works if it is acidic. Depending on diet, urine is not always acidic. Therefore, urine does not always work. Vinegar, however, always works. Moral of the story: use vinegar.


Putting Something in a Seizure Patient's Mouth to Bite

Unconscious girl on stairs

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While somebody suffering a seizure may very well bite his or her tongue, it rarely becomes an airway emergency. Seizures look scary but generally do very little harm. You're more apt to cause an airway blockage by stuffing your wallet in the seizure victim's mouth than by leaving the victim alone.

Treat a seizure with less rather than too much.


Leaning Back With a Nosebleed

Young woman stop nose blood with cotton wool swabs. Woman suffer from the nose bleeding
Lazy_Bear / Getty Images

We know, mom's going to be mad when you bleed on your soccer uniform, but leaning back will cause you to swallow blood. Since your tummy doesn't like blood, you will vomit the blood. Gross, and it will definitely ruin your soccer uniform. Lean forward on a bloody nose.


Raw Steak on Black Eye

Woman with a black eye

Tetra Images / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Right out of a Popeye cartoon, this one. Putting raw steak on a black eye does nothing but contaminate the eye with whatever E coli is on the steak. This is all about the cold. Ice works just fine. If you insist on pulling something out of the kitchen freezer, try a bag of frozen peas—it's cleaner and it'll work better than the steak.


Put Butter on Burns

Woman with sun burn

Patrik Giardino / Getty Images

What is it with food and first aid? Butter and oil are great for basting, but unless you want to make a burn worse, leave them in the kitchen. Oils hold in the heat, exactly the opposite of what a burn victim needs. If you have to put butter on something—try the steak you won't be using for your black eye.

Treat your burn with cool water.


Drinking Alcohol to Warm up a Hypothermia Victim

St Bernard dog with barrel attached to its collar

Jekaterina Nikitina / Getty Images

Remember the pictures of St. Bernards racing through the snow-covered mountains, kegs of brandy lashed to their thick necks? Didn't happen. They were carrying mail. Just because a Hot Toddy by the fire keeps you warm in the ski lodge, it isn't a good idea to count on the booze in your bota bag to warm up. Alcohol makes you feel flush and warm but actually leads to hypothermia in cold weather.


Rubbing Alcohol for a Fever

child fever
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Alcohol on the inside doesn't warm you up and alcohol on the outside isn't a great way to cool you down. Alcohol dries very quickly, and that makes it feel cool. Unfortunately, it can absorb into the skin and it causes nasty results when it does. Never drink isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, and don't rub it all over your body, either. Reduce your fever in other ways.


Keeping Head Injury Patients Awake

Doctor wrapping a child's head injury

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"Don't let him go to sleep!" You've heard it on TV and probably on the football field. One of your buddies gets knocked silly and everyone wants to make sure he doesn't get any shuteye. How exactly does keeping one awake treat one's head injury? Hint: it doesn't.


Never Use a Tourniquet

tourniquet being applied to a soldier's arm
Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Tourniquets have a bad rap in first aid. Used incorrectly, they have the potential to do irreparable harm. However, when they're needed, there's nothing better.


Counting on Good Samaritan Laws to Protect You

men doing cpr on another man
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Laws are supposed to protect everyone. If only it worked that way. You know what they say, "No good deed goes unpunished."

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