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6 Dangerous First Aid Myths to Stop Believing

In this video, learn six common first aid myths about burns, cuts, ticks, and more, and find out the proper way to treat these injuries.

Lauren Smith, MAMera Goodman, MD, FAAP
Written by Lauren Smith, MA | Reviewed by Mera Goodman, MD, FAAP
Updated on December 26, 2020

Listen up: It’s time to dispel some stubborn first aid myths that could be sabotaging your health. Falling for any of these old wives’ tales can delay healing (at best) or even exacerbate the injury (at worst).

  • Don’t put butter or mayo on burns. These greasy spreads can actually make pain worse and slow down healing because they seal in heat, says the American Red Cross. And yes, that goes for sunburns, too. For relief from a minor burn, stick to aloe vera and cool (but not ice-cold) compresses. Here’s the proper way to treat a burn.

  • Don’t clean cuts with hydrogen peroxide. It’s true that hydrogen peroxide will kill off germs around the wound, but it may also damage the skin tissue. The best way to clean a wound is with soap and warm, running water or saline, according to the American Red Cross. Find more tips for treating a cut here.

  • Don’t let wounds “breathe.” Contrary to popular belief, this does not help it heal faster. “Generally, most cuts will heal more quickly if kept clean and covered by a sterile bandage,” says nurse practitioner Erik Larson. “It’s important to change the bandage regularly or daily, and make sure the wound stays clean.”

  • Don’t force someone who has been poisoned to vomit: It may make the situation worse. It’s possible the victim will throw up on their own, but don’t force it. Your best option for dealing with poisoning is to call 9-1-1 if the victim is losing consciousness or having difficulty breathing, or to call the Poison Help hotline (800-222-1222) if they are conscious, responsive, and alert.

  • Don’t use ice cold water for burns, or hot water for frostbite. These injuries alter the nerves on the skin. Introducing the opposite extreme temperature can further shock the skin. For example, after frostbite, running under steaming hot water may replicate a burning sensation. Stick to water temperatures that you would be able to drink, the Red Cross advises.

  • Don’t “burn” off a tick or cover it in nail polish. Sure, these methods will make the tick detach, but not immediately. Your goal is to remove the tick ASAP, not wait for it to detach on its own, so using a tweezers to remove a tick is the safest option, according to the CDC.

Wanna master more first aid techniques? Check out how to treat a sprained ankle and how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

References

Tick Removal. Lyme Disease Association; Jackson, NJ, 2020 (Accessed on December 27, 2020 at https://lymediseaseassociation.org/about-lyme/prevention/tick-removal/)

The American Red Cross. American Red Cross first aid/CPR/AED: Participant's manual [Internet]. St. Paul, MN: StayWell, 2016. (Accessed on July 10, 2017 at http://www.redcross.org/participantmaterials.)

View All References (1)

Tick removal. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. (Accessed on July 10, 2017 at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html.)

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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