It's critical to know how to navigate a scary situation, without making it even worse. There are so many myths floating around on what to do in case of emergency, but which ones are true?
If someone is having a seizure, would you know what to do? What about a bad burn, or snake bite? You may think you have a well rounded understanding of how to react to potentially deadly situations, but the truth is, we read and believe just too many myths and mistakes. Here are some common situations, and the best way to handle them.
Bitten By A Snake
It's a beautiful day for a hike in the mountains, until one of your comrades gets bitten by a snake. So, what do you do now? Suck the poison out? Make a tourniquet to stop the venom? Cut the bite open so the venom will drain?
Please, refrain from doing any of these things! All of these myths are super dangerous and can cause further (potentially worse) injury. Dr. Richard O'Brien of WebMD also explains the importance of keeping the victim immobile, "Don't allow the victim to run for help, this speeds the tissue-destroying or nerve-paralyzing venom."
The correct course of action is to split the would with a clean garment and get to the ER immediately.
Re-hydrate With Snow
If you are stranded without water, eating snow seems like a natural way to re-hydrate, right? Wrong. The energy it takes your body to warm the snow can rob you of even more heat, which can lead to hypothermia. Instead, put the snow in a container and warm it using layers of clothing. Be careful not to rob your body of heat in the process.
You Get Burned
You are cooking on the stove and tip over a boiling pot of water. Ouch! Do you immediately rub butter or oil on it to soften the burn? Put it under cold water? Peel away the clothing stuck to it?
Avoid the oil and removal of clothing. These were myths that started long ago, but have since been proven wrong. For minor burns, the Mayo Clinic recommends rinsing the burn immediately with cool (not cold) water for about 10 minutes, followed by an antibiotic ointment or Aloe Vera gel.
If blisters appear, do not pop them yourself. If the burn is larger than your hand or circles an entire limb, go to the ER immediately.
Someone Is Having A Seizure
Across the airport you see a woman having a seizure. There is a crowd forming, and they are encouraging you to pry her mouth open to avoid her biting her tongue. Others want to hold her as to avoid her shaking on the ground. What's the correct course of action?
Do not move them, and no prying of the mouth. The only reason they should be moved is if there is a danger of falling or rolling over onto something hazardous like a fire.
Simply try to put them on their side and call 911. You never know what kind of situation you are dealing with, and it's better to let the authorities take over.
Your Ears Are Clogged
Although many people believe it's common to unclog your ears by holding your nose and blowing out hard, it's actually wrong. It may feel uncomfortable to feel pressure in your ears but it's best to leave it be and let your ears decompress on their own. Blowing too hard can damage your eardrum and then you have an even more serious problem on your hands.
For a more natural solution, try taking a hot shower, exercising to allow heavy breathing, or taking decongestant medicine to help your Eustachian tubes within your ears decompress.
You Roll An Ankle
Heat or ice? Elevate or walk it off?
If it hurts to put pressure on it, by all means stay off it. WebMD recommends the RICE technique- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. Do not try and "walk it off," and avoid hot compresses as these can cause more swelling to occur. If after a few days it continues to hurt, seek medical attention.
Your Child Eats A Bottle Of Vitamins
Run to the ER? Assume since they are children's vitamins, it will be fine? Grab the ipecac?
Vitamins are scary little pills and should be treated just as if they were a bottle of pain reliever. The truth is, kids overdose on vitamins every year in large part to the iron in them. The Red Cross does not recommend inducing vomiting. Instead, save the bottle and immediately call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 or your doctor for advice. Likely you will be heading to the ER.
Go ahead and toss all of your ipecac from your medicine cabinet now too, as it is no longer advised to use in any situation.
The Baby Spikes a Fever
Out of nowhere the little one spikes a fever that won't seem to break. Pull out the rubbing alcohol and apply it to the chest? Run a cold bath? Give a dose of Tylenol and wait? Sweat it out?
One of the biggest myths when it comes to fever is the rubbing alcohol. The old wives tale is meant to cool the child's body, but in all honesty, the fumes are more harmful to the baby than the cooling affect. You also never want to let a kid sweat it out.
Best course of action is to give the child a dose of Tylenol (if they are old enough), and draw a lukewarm bath. Livestrong also suggests lots of fluids and a cool sleeping environment. If the fever remains, or gets above 104, call the doctor or head to Urgent Care.
To Breath or Not to Breath?
If you begin hyperventilating, what is the first thing you look for? Odds are, you reach for a brown paper bag.
When someone is having an anxiety attack, they tend to over breath. A paper bag is often used to counteract this, forcing you to "re breath" exhaled hair. When that exhaled carbon dioxide is recirculated into the body, your body's pH drops, allowing you to breath normally.
This is not a recommended course of action due to the fact that it's hard to know the exact reason a person is hyperventilating. Breathing into a brown paper bag only works if you are over-breathing, but there are other causes of hyperventilation that could be made worse using this technique.
Instead, try to stay calm and breath slowly on your own until symptoms subside. If your breathing doesn't stabilize within a few minutes, seek medical attention.
Someone Is Choking
Across the dinner table your friend starts to choke. You jump up and... Pat them on the back? Get them water? Start performing the Heimlich maneuver?
This one depends on whether the person can partially breath or not. If your friend is able to get out a few words, or partially cough and breath, encourage them to keep coughing and stay close by to monitor the situation. Drinking water can make this situation worse, by blocking the small amount of room they have in their throat.
If they are unable to speak or cough, and are turning blue, the Heimlich maneuver is key. By performing this, it will force air up through the body and eject whatever is stuck.
This video shows how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Keep Them In Mind
So, keep these little tidbits in the back of your head in case one day you may need to use them. First aid can be scary, but the most important thing is to remain calm, keep your wits about you and make smart decisions. Common sense goes a long way in stressful situations, don't try any fancy tricks and call 911 when you are unclear what the best route to take is.
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