Top 5 Mistakes Made When Rendering First Aid

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Top 5 Mistakes Made When Rendering First Aid

One of the fundamental principles of medicine is to do no harm to the patient.  This is also one of the biggest responsibilities that we amateurs face when rendering aid to someone who is sick or injured.  It is important to avoid making common mistakes that can actually end up doing more harm than good.  Let’s take a look at a few examples of what not to do, so you can be more of an asset to others instead of a liability during a crisis.

Apply Butter to Burns

This is one of the most common first aid myths out there, and there is no basis whatsoever for treating burns with butter.  In fact, this is actually one of the worst things that someone can do for a couple of reasons.  First, butter traps heat.  Burned skin needs to be able to radiate heat into the ambient air in order to cool itself.  Applying butter to the burn will trap that heat inside and delay the healing process.  It can also cause further injury to the affected area and surrounding tissues.

Second, butter can make burns more difficult to treat because it is so greasy.  Burns need to be irrigated, disinfected and medicated, and butter interferes with all of these steps.  It takes healthcare providers longer to treat a burn that is coated in butter, patients are in more pain and the risk of developing an infection increases significantly.

Applying Heat to an Injury

Many people believe that applying heat over an injury is a good way to reduce swelling.  This is the farthest thing from the truth.  Applying heat will actually make the swelling worse, and this will only aggravate the injury and make it more difficult to treat.  Heat is used to soothe sore muscles because it improves circulation, which is the last thing that a patient who has a twisted ankle, sprained hand or broken arm needs.  When treating sprains, bumps or fractures, make sure that you use cold packs or ice instead.

Rubbing Eyes

We have a natural tendency to rub our eyes when something irritates them.  However, rubbing eyes to help remove a foreign object can lead to serious and sometimes permanent damage.  The best way to deal with small objects that get into the eye is to flush it with water until the debris has been removed.  You can use anything from tap water to saline solution, but avoid rubbing the eye at all costs, and prevent the patient from doing so as well.

Using Alcohol to Treat a Fever

Another common misconception is that soaking a towel before placing it on the forehead of someone who has a fever is helpful.  This is because alcohol feels like it “cools” the skin as it evaporates.  It doesn’t.  In fact, alcohol gets absorbed into the skin, and too much exposure can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death.  Children are particularly susceptible to the ill-effects of this form of treatment, and it should be avoided at all costs.

Moving a Victim from the Scene of an Accident

Many people are under the impression that someone who has been injured in an accident should be moved to a safer area.  While it is true that being in the middle of traffic is dangerous in-and-of-itself, it is safer for the patient to stay in most circumstances.  They could have suffered a traumatic head, neck or back injury that does not show any outward symptoms, and moving the patient can lead to paralysis or even death.  The best thing to do is keep them as still and calm as possible until emergency personnel arrive on the scene.  However, if their life is in immediate danger, then moving them is acceptable, but care must be given to minimize the movement of the neck and spine.

Using Heat to Warm Frozen Extremities

The best way to treat someone who is suffering from exposure to extreme cold is to soak the affected area in cool to lukewarm water.  This will gradually bring up the temperature of the affected area without causing a shock to the system.  Rapid temperature changes can kill tissue and cause permanent damage, and hot water can lead to a magnification of the effects of scalding.

These are just a few examples of treatments that are well-intended but very inappropriate.  They also illustrate the importance of learning basic first aid skills so that you will know what action to take when faced with a medical emergency.  The more that you can learn now will make a huge difference later when your intervention may be necessary, and the assistance you provide will be helpful instead of harmful to the patient.