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Durham OnAir debunks 5 'First Aid' Myths

Without receiving the proper training from a first aid expert, you may naturally rely on the information you have learnt from TV, film or family members when faced with a situation requiring quick assistance.

There are many misconceptions about what to do when someone is suffering from an injury, and to make things more confusing, first aid advice from professionals tends to change over the years as research and new findings are unearthed.

Education experts at have highlighted some of the most common first-aid myths that are still circulating today and offer updated guidance for each.

1. You must do mouth-to-mouth for CPR When learning CPR, you are taught how to give breaths and compressions together. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, hands-only CPR is the recommended way to do CPR. A common misconception is that you are required to do mouth-to-mouth for CPR to be effective when helping someone unconscious or in cardiac arrest. Technically, CPR can work just as effectively with chest compressions and an automated external defibrillator (AED). Rescue breaths are a bonus if you choose to do them, but it is not essential. In fact, according to the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) guidelines, you should prioritise chest compressions over breaths if you are a single rescuer. An exception to this is children and infants who do require mouth-to-mouth as part of CPR. 2. Always use the Heimlich manoeuvre on a choking person The Heimlich manoeuvre is well known for saving those who are suffering from, an obstruction lodged in their airways. The misconception is that that every instance of choking requires use of the manoeuvre. If a person has a completely blocked airway and their face is turning blue, they will need the Heimlich immediately as the pressure will allow the obstruction to pop out. However, if there is only a partial obstruction and the person can still talk, performing the Heimlich manoeuvre could force the lodged object further down the airways. Instead, encourage the person to cough hard. If a child is choking, you may be able to see the obstruction and remove it with your fingers. 3. Spread butter onto a burn A myth that has been circulating since the 19th century dictates that a burn should be treated by being slathered in butter. This myth gathered worldwide popularity when a book of battlefield treatments was published by a respected surgeon and featured the butter tip. The logic behind this method is that the grease from the butter would protect the burnt skin and reduce the risk of amputation. This myth gained popularity at a time when antibiotics had yet to be discovered, and it was only just becoming apparent that bacteria could infect a wound and cause sepsis.

You should never put butter on a burn as it may trap heat in the skin and make the burn worse. Instead, it would be best if you washed your hands, rinse the burn with cold water for up to 20 minutes to numb the pain and then bandage the area.

4. Breathe into a paper bag when hyperventilating

Hyperventilation is rapid and deep breathing often caused by anxiety, panic, or stress. You may have heard of the breathing into a paper bag method that is said to regulate the oxygen flow in your body by replacing the carbon dioxide lost, otherwise known as 'rebreathing'. Most medical studies today have concluded that this method is potentially dangerous and should be retired. The biggest problem with this method is that serious conditions such as asthma and heart attacks can have similar symptoms to that of hyperventilation. In these cases, the paper bag method would likely harm or kill someone from losing oxygen. The best way to help someone who is hyperventilating is to remain calm and advise breathing through pursed lips as if you were blowing out a candle. This will increase carbon dioxide levels as you take in less oxygen. If you suspect the patient is suffering from an asthma attack or heart attack, call 999 immediately. 5. Tilting your head back when you have a nosebleed

Perhaps one of the most popular first aid myths is to tilt your head back and pinch the top of your nose when having a nosebleed. Not only could tilting your head back cause blood to enter the digestive tract and cause nausea, but the sufferer also risks swallowing and choking on blood.

A much safer idea is to tilt the head forward, into a tissue or a sink, for ten minutes or so whilst gently pinching the nostrils. If the bleeding lasts for more than 30 minutes, seek medical attention.

A spokesperson from commented:

“Following outdated first aid advice can have dangerous consequences. It is so important to keep up to date with new advice that is backed up by current research to ensure the safety of those who require medical assistance. Whilst these debunked myths will provide useful information for those still following old advice, a great course of action would be to attend a first aid course to gain further invaluable knowledge that could save a life.”

Skills Training Group offer HSE-approved and FAIB-accredited first aid courses in a classroom or online setting.


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