5 first aid myths and why they're wrong

First aid. What do you know?

Toys are just for kids? Nope. Think again. Especially around Christmas time. Adults just can’t help themselves. There’s a new scooter, a new bike, a Wii?

According to the Ambulance Service of NSW some parents take playing with their kids’ toys – or “showing their kids how to use them” very seriously – and land themselves in the Emergency Department.

It’s called the “Big Kid” syndrome. Trauma admissions rise around Christmas because adults consume alcohol and play toys that, well, weren’t made for adults.

With that in mind, let’s touch up on some need-to-know first aid tips:

So you’re the first to arrive at an accident. You see someone chocking or someone faint. Would you know what to do?

Chances are you’d revert to any basic first-aid knowledge you know. But would that knowledge be right?

We’ve put together a list of the five most common first aid myths so if you do find yourself in a such a situation – you’ll be able to lend a hand.

NOTE: Mamamia posts do not purport to provide medical analysis or consultation.  If you have any concerns or queries please consult your doctor or if you find yourself in the company of a person who needs medical attention, call an ambulance!

1. Fainting

The Myth: Place the patient’s head between their knees.

The reality: Fainting is the body’s way of telling you to lie down naturally.  So if someone faints, allow them to lie down. Don’t sit the person up because they can become unconscious and if their head tilts forward they can stop breathing.  St John recommends that you lay the person down on their side if they’re unconscious and then when they’re conscious turn them onto their back and raise and support their legs.

2. Burns

The Myth: Slather on butter or toothpaste or aloe vera gel.

The reality – The best first aid for burns is water and plenty of it. Do not use butter, lotions, creams or oils on a burn and don’t remove anything that is sticking to the burn. To avoid scarring and long healing times, St John recommends placing the burn part under cold running water until it returns to normal temperature, usually about 20 minutes. An acceptable improvisation on a non-stick dressing is to use cling wrap over the wound.


3.  Seizures and fits

The Myth: Place something hard between the patient’s jaws to stop them swallowing their tongue.

The reality: When someone is having a seizure it’s not actually possible for people to swallow their own tongue. The only thing you will achieve by putting fingers in their mouth is an amputated finger – or maybe a hand full of vomit. St John recommends that you let the person have their seizure in peace. Prevent intervention by well-meaning onlookers and place something under their head for protection (a jumper or jacket is ideal as it will stop any facial abrasions or head injuries).

4. People seriously injured in a car accident

The myth: Move the victim away from the scene

The reality – Don’t move unless absolutely necessary, it is potentially more damaging

People often think they should move a person out of a wreck and lay them down nicely for ambulance officer.   St John recommends NOT to move the person unless there is a danger of, for example, the car exploding which is actually very rare.

5. Choking

The myth: Carry out the Heimlich Manoeuver immediately.

The reality: Encourage the person to relax and cough. People still believe in the Heimlich maneuver, but it can cause damage.  St John recommends that you encourage the person to relax and cough in the first instance and if this is not successful at dislodging the stuck item lay the patient across your legs towards the ground and hit them hard between the shoulder blades.

Knowing a few first aid basics could help you increase someone’s chance of survival. As with all skills, First Aid skills need to be practised regularly. This practise will build confidence and ensure you’re ready to save a life – if ever required.

Here’s hoping you don’t, but if you do, be prepared.

This post has been compiled with the help of an ambulance officer – thanks Kylie Lamey – and representatives from St John Ambulance Australia. The D.R.S.A.B.C.D. Action Plan can be applied to manage any first aid scenario. To learn about this and how to manage any first aid scenarios, book into your nearest St John first aid course. Duration of courses start from just 4 hours