First aid myth-busting – the top 5 first aid myths

When it comes to first aid, there are several well-popularised myths about what to do in certain situations. These myths are unlikely to help, and in some cases may even harm the patient.

Here are our top five first aid myths which we’ve busted!

First aid myth 1: If someone is having a seizure (fit) you should place something in their mouth to stop them from biting on their tongue or choking.

When someone has a seizure, nothing should be placed in their mouth as they may choke/swallow it or injure their teeth. In most cases people’s jaws are clenched shut during a seizure, therefore forcing the mouth open could be dangerous to both you and the casualty.

Instead, you should let the casualty have the seizure and place them on their side once the seizure has finished.

First aid myth 2: If someone has a nosebleed, they should tilt their head backwards.

False! In fact, the best position for someone with a nosebleed is with their head tilted forwards.

The risk with tilting the head backwards is that blood from the nosebleed will travel into the person’s stomach and make them feel sick. Check out our first aid article on how to deal with a nosebleed.

First aid myth 3: If someone is feeling faint, sit them in a chair with their head in between their knees.

This is not an advisable position for someone feeling faint as if they fall they may suffer a head injury.

Instead, if someone is feeling faint you should ask them to sit on the floor (where they cannot fall) in a comfortable position. If a faint does occur, you should lie the person down with their legs raised in order to improve blood flow to the brain.

First aid myth 4: You should put butter and toothpaste on burns in order to cool them.

This is a common myth when it comes to burns. In fact the best way to cool a burn is with cold running water (such as from a kitchen sink) for a minimum of 10 minutes.

You should cool a burn as quickly as possible in order to reduce pain and the possibility of long-term skin damage. Check out our article on how to deal with minor burns.

First aid myth 5: Doing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) will restart the heart and the person will wake up.

Unfortunately this myth has been propagated by the numerous TV shows and movies where the actor instantly recovers after CPR has been performed.

In reality, CPR is just buying the casualty time before the arrival of a defibrillator to restart the heart. CPR on its own is incredibly unlikely to restart a person’s heart, however it will significantly increase the chances of a successful defibrillation.

Want to learn more about first aid? Sign up to one of our free first aid e-learning courses.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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1 Response

  1. Tacare says:

    I like that you put all of these together. We grow up with so many different kinds of myths about first aid and health care, and I’ll bet some of them are centuries old, or stem from very antiquated folklore.

    It makes so much more sense to put cool water on a burn than to apply butter to it. Regarding nosebleeds, I have always thought it strange to advise someone to tilt his or her head back, so I’m glad to see here that my instinct is correct.

    Thanks for the quick and easy tips on how to do these things the right way.

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