Saturday, July 14, 2007

10 Useless or Even Dangerous First Aid Myths

1. Sucking Venom From a Snakebite

Cutting the skin of a snakebite victim to suck out the poison
may be a classic first-aid technique, but doctors now say
it’s useless and even dangerous. “Cutting and sucking, or
applying a tourniquet or ice does nothing to help,” says Dr.
Robert Barish, an emergency physician at the University of
Maryland. The outdated measures “may do more harm than
good by delaying prompt medical care, contaminating the
wound or by damaging nerves and blood vessels,” Barish
says in an article released by the university’s School of
Medicine and the Rocky Mountain Poison Center.

“The victim should be moved out of harm’s way and
transported to the nearest medical facility as soon as
possible,” Barish advises. So the best cure for snakebite: a
cell phone and a helicopter.

2. Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting

You’re far more likely to suffer a jellyfish sting than a shark
bite, so here’s what you need to know:

First, don’t believe the rumors. Peeing on a stung bit of skin
won’t do much to relieve suffering, and you’ll suffer some
odd stares, too, doctors say.

“Urine has not been scientifically proven to help in jellyfish
stings”, said Dr. Paul Auerbach, an emergency physician at
Stanford University Hospital and an expert on jellyfish stings.

“Instead, vinegar is the best first treatment,” he said, when
treating stings from North American jellyfish.

But the question still lingers, if no vinegar is in sight is urine
better than nothing? While studies haven’t proven it,
Auerbach admits he’s known a few people who said urine
worked for them.

3. Drinking Booze to Ease a Toothache

“A shot of whiskey is not going to kill the pain of a
toothache,” says Charles Wakefield, D.D.S., director of
advanced education in general dentistry at Baylor University
medical school. Instead of a whiskey on the rocks, just
order the rocks: A Canadian study found that rubbing an ice
cube on people’s hands killed tooth pain in 50 percent of
them. Wrap the cube and rub it on the V-shaped soft spot
of your hand, where the bones of your thumb and index
finger meet. The cold, rubbing sensation travels on the same
pathway to the brain as tooth pain, and by icing your hand,
you override the signals from your mouth. When you’re
finished, call a dentist. And pour yourself that whiskey.

4. Slathering Butter on a Burn

Putting butter, Crisco, or any other kind of grease on a burn
can trap heat, cause scarring, and lead to infection. “When
you’ve burned yourself, you’ve damaged the integrity of the
skin, and butter is not the cleanest thing in the world,” says
Ben Wedro, M.D., an emergency-room doctor at the
Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Your impulse to
douse the burn in ice water is off base as well; the drastic
temperature change can cause more pain. Instead, use cool
water to soothe and clean the area.

5. Slapping a Raw Steak on a Black Eye

In the movies, you always see someone put a raw steak
over their black eye. While it may feel good, the grease from
the steak might get into the eye, causing more

“The only medical merit this has is if it’s a cold steak,” says
Flip Homansky, M.D., who’s seen his share of shiners in his
work for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which
regulates Las Vegas’s boxing bouts. “The cold will decrease
swelling, but there is no enzyme or anything else in a raw
steak that will help otherwise.” The fact that the steak,
compared with blocks of ice or ice cubes, can be formed to
fit over the eye is another benefit, but a cheaper and less
bacteria-prone solution is a bag of frozen peas, or crushed
ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel. And remember, you
will still end up with bruising.

6. Apply Peroxide to Cuts and Scrapes and Leave Open to Air

“I am not a fan of peroxide,” Richard O’Brien, MD, says.
Some authorities even think it can kill the body’s cells that
are rushing to fend off intruding bacteria and germs trying to
enter the wound. O’Brien prefers soap and water - or just
clean water - to flush out bits of dirt and irrigate the
wound. Even hose water will do.

“We go by clean, treat, and protect,” he says. Clean a cut
or scrape, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage it. “Some
people like to let wounds air, but I find they heal faster if
they are protected. More importantly, if they are
bandaged, the person, especially a child, will protect them
better. You can’t imagine how many times people will
reinjure the same place! I see it all the time. Bandaging
makes it less likely the wound will be reopened.”

Any cut that goes beyond the top layer of skin might need
stitches. Generally, the sooner stitches are put in, the lower
risk of infection.

7. People May Swallow Their Tongues During a Seizure

It’s commonplace in movies. Someone has a seizure and a
passerby sticks something in the patient’s mouth so they
don’t swallow their tongue and block their airway. “People
can control their own airway,” Richard O’Brien, MD, says.
“Don’t stick anything in there.” If the person is outside, let
him or her roll around on the ground. It’s OK.

When a person is having a seizure, don’t hold the person
down as this can result in injury. Just remove sharp objects
- glasses, furniture etc. - from around the person to prevent

8. If You Get a Bee Sting, You Must Squeeze Out the Stinger

Never do this! Squeezing the stinger may allow venom still in
the sac to get into your system. “Scrape the stinger out
with a credit card,” Richard O’Brien, MD, says. “Even those
acrylic nails work, if they are clean.” If the person is getting
red or having trouble breathing, dial 911. This can be serious
or even fatal.

Another bee sting remedy is putting baking soda on it. This
one actually works. Mix baking soda with water to form a
thick paste and slap it on ASAP. “The sting is produced by
an acid, and if you put baking soda on as soon as you can,
it neutralizes that acid,” says Stephen Purcell, D.O.,
chairman of the division of dermatology at the Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine. If you don’t have baking
soda, wet the affected area and rub it with an uncoated
aspirin; the aspirin will help control swelling, pain, and

9. Throw Your Head Back to Stop a Nosebleed

“Don’t put your head between your knees or tip your head
back,” Richard O’Brien, MD, says. The latter is especially bad
because you can breathe the blood into your lungs or get it
in your stomach and vomit.

“Press the fleshy part of your nose,” O’Brien says, “and not
the part where your glasses sit - lower than that - as if you
are trying to stop a bad smell.” Now - and this is the
important part - press firmly for a complete 10 minutes by
the clock. “People don’t do that, they let up every three
seconds to see if it stopped,” he says. Ten minutes! O’Brien
says there are also medications and little nostril plugs for
people who get frequent nosebleeds.

If a nosebleed lasts for more than 15 minutes, occurs
following a serious injury, or is accompanied by severe blood
loss, you should call your doctor or go to the emergency

10. If You Get Shin Splints, Running More Will Ease Them

Anyone who has run or hiked too much without conditioning
has probably experienced shin pain. “This is really called
medial tibial stress syndrome,” says Jim Thornton, MA, a
certified athletic trainer and head trainer at Clarion
University of Pennsylvania. Basically the muscle attached to
the shinbone is tearing loose. The inflammation - or pain - is
a response on the way to healing.

“If you continue to pound the tears,” Thornton tells WebMD,
“it will not heal. The key is to have it evaluated because it
means your muscles are out of balance. If you run again
when the pain lets up, dial back the mileage, because shin
splints can end up in a stress fracture.”

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