Health

7 First Aid Mistakes You Might Be Making

Find out why you should never put butter on a burn!

Summertime means pool days, bike rides, picnics and the occasional scraped knee, bee sting or sprained ankle. It’s probably been a long time since you earned your first aid badge in Girl Scouts, so it’s high time for a refresh!

Here are common mistakes people make when treating summer mishaps, and what to do instead:

1. The Mistake: Putting Butter on a Burn

There are plenty of opportunities to get burned during the summer, whether it is from sunburn, grilling, lighting sparklers or toasting marshmallows. But soothing a burn with butter is definitely an old wive’s tale!

When you apply butter (or any oily substances) to a serious burn, you can actually increase the risk of getting an infection, according to the American Red Cross.

Do this instead: Treat a burn with cool water, the Red Cross advises. If the burn is severe and starts to blister, seek professional medical attention. Keep the area clean loosely covered with a dry, sterile dressing.

stick of butter photo
Flickr | Joanna Bourne

2. The Mistake: Immediately Grabbing a Tourniquet to Stop Bleeding

Tourniquets should only be used as a last resort in the case of severe bleeding, according to the American Red Cross. That’s because they stop the flow of blood, which could end up causing permanent damage to a limb.

Do this instead: The Red Cross advises using sterile gauze or cloth to pad a wound, apply direct pressure and wrap the wound securely. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, seek medical help.

Medical help should also be sought when the wound is gaping, dirty or caused by an animal bite.

dog bark photo
Getty Images | Charles McQuillan

3. The Mistake: Treating a Sprain With Heat

Applying heat to a sprain, strain or fracture can increase swelling and prevent an injury from healing quickly.

Do this instead: Apply ice for about 20 minutes to reduce swelling, the Red Cross recommends. For more comfort, place a thin barrier between the ice and bare skin.

Adobe

4. The Mistake: Treating Allergic Reactions to Bee Stings at Home

Bee or wasp stings are always painful, but they can be a real emergency when someone with an allergy gets stung. If you delay professional medical treatment to respiratory allergic reactions caused by bee stings, it could be fatal.

Do this instead: Healthline recommends calling 911 immediately if bee sting reaction symptoms occur, include breathing problems, a tight throat or a swollen tongue. You should also administer an epinephrine injection (an EpiPen) if the person has one.

If there’s no allergic reaction and the sting merely caused light swelling and some redness, it can be treated at home. Do this by removing the stinger as soon as possible with tweezers and then reducing the swelling with an ice pack.

Photo by ARTHUR YAO on Unsplash

5. The Mistake: Applying Ointment to Cuts, Bandaging and Leaving Untended

Exposure to fresh air is the quickest way to allow wounds to heal, so it’s generally not a good idea to apply creams or ointments because they can keep the wound moist, according to the Red Cross.

Do this instead: Cuts and scratches should be washed with soap and cool water and all dressings should be changed twice a day. At bedtime, the bandage should be replaced with a looser dressing so air can circulate around the wound.

When you wake up, a slightly tighter bandage can be applied, but make sure it doesn’t cut off circulation. Bandages should be changed even it means pulling off part of a scab that’s forming. Keep the bandaged area dry.

Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash

6. The Mistake: Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting

The amount of jellyfish is increasing at many places around the world. Getting stung with their venom is painful, but usually not fatal. (Obviously, learn about the local jellyfish before going for a swim!)

If someone is stung, don’t add insult to injury by treating it with pee. In fact, urine can make jellyfish stings worse because it can further activate stinging cells. Also, shaving cream, sea water and baking soda don’t properly treat jellyfish stings, either.

Do this instead: The best way to treat a jellyfish sting is to douse the affected area with vinegar, use tweezer to pluck off tentacles and apply heat. You can also carry a product called Sting No More, a fast-acting spray, to fight the venom.

jellyfish photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

7. The Mistake: Stopping a Nosebleed by Tilting Your Head Back

When you tilt your head back to stop a nosebleed, you might cause the blood to run down the back of your throat. Swallowed blood can can irritate your stomach and cause vomiting, according to Kaiser Permanente.

Do this instead: To stop a nosebleed, Kaiser recommends sitting up straight, tipping your head forward slightly and using your thumb or forefinger to firmly pinch the soft part of your nose shut. Hold it for 10 minutes.

If the nosebleed does not stop, hold your nose shut for another 10 minutes. Don’t put tissues or tampons in your nose to soak up blood, because they could actually aggravate the injury.

When the nosebleed stops, apply a thin layer of a saline- or water-based nasal gel or an antiseptic nasal cream, inside your nose. Avoid blowing your nose for at least 12 hours.

In case any blood from the nosebleed does end up in your mouth, spit it out instead of swallowing it.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Getty Images | Maddie Meyer

Need more first aid advice? The Red Cross First Aid App, which is free, gives users directions on how to respond in common first aid situations. The Red Cross also has a free Pet First Aid App!