First aid myths

First Aid Myths and are they true

We often hear some first aid myths when we deliver our first aid training courses, and I have witnessed a few firsthand over the years. Recently, I witnessed a shocking incident, prompting me to act swiftly to prevent any injuries. To learn more about what happened, look out for First Aid Myth 9.

Get yourself a cup of coffee and read the top 10 first-aid myths.

Learning how to give first aid.

First Aid Myth #1
I don’t need any first aid training because I will call an ambulance, which will be with me within minutes.

First aid training is a life skill we hope we never need, but chances are it will come in handy at some point, and learners who have been on our first aid courses have told us they have used their new skills within a week of passing their assessment.

People often overlook the fact that the ambulance service employs a triage system to determine which patients receive immediate attention. If someone is not breathing or has had a catastrophic accident, this is a priority over a broken leg.

Ambulance response times vary by area and need, so learning first aid may be an idea to help that person in the interim until help arrives.

first aid myths

Using a Defibrillator (AED)

First Aid Myth #2

Only professionals can use a defibrillator because they are complicated to use.

The question is, given their complexity, why are they spread across the nation, with new ones constantly joining the network?

Defibrillators guide users through their instructions once they are turned on, making them accessible to everyone. In all of our first aid courses, our learners get to use training defibrillators so that, in an emergency, they can use them confidently.

If you can get a defibrillator to a casualty within the first 3 minutes, their life chances go from 6% to 70%, and for every minute wasted, this drops by 10%. If you couple this with excellent-quality CPR, the casualty has a high chance of survival.


Placing your head between your knees if you feel faint

First Aid Myth #3 

If you feel faint, you should place your head between their knees.

The truth is…

Placing their head between their knees will likely roll them forward, causing more problems.

You feel faint due to a lack of blood flow to your head.

However, by laying them down, raising their legs, and supporting them on a box or similar object, the blood will flow from their legs towards their head, and within a few minutes, they will begin to feel better.

You should monitor their breathing and be ready to initiate CPR if they cease breathing.


Swallowed toxic or corrosive substance

First Aid Myth #4

You should either make them sick or encourage them to drink lots of fluids to dilute the symptoms.

The truth is…

Drinking large amounts of fluid can make them vomit, and whatever they have taken will burn on the way back up the oesophagus and into their mouth.

The best course of action is to allow small amounts of water to rinse out the mouth, sip water or milk, and stay calm. Any evidence of what the casualty swallowed will help emergency services and A&E.

• Even flat-button batteries are toxic if swallowed, and they are becoming more common with young children attending A&E.

Here is a blog about button batteries.

Tilting head back to stop a nose bleed.

First Aid Myth #5

To stop a nosebleed, tilt their head back. This will cause them to swallow blood and vomit. Even though it is their blood, the body doesn’t want it in the stomach.

I am still amazed at how many people still do this.

What you should be doing…

Pinch the soft tissues on the nasal bridge and hold them for 10 minutes while tilting your head forward.

Release after 10 minutes, and if you are still bleeding, do it again for 10 minutes and then release.

If you are still bleeding, then do it again for a further 10 minutes and then release.

You will need to visit A&E if the bleeding persists.


First Aid Myth #6

To prevent hyperventilation, use a paper bag for rebreathing.

The first-aid community hasn’t used this since 1990 because of the risk of hypoxia.

What you should be doing…

Simply instruct the casualty to count to two while inhaling and exhaling, or to breathe through their nose and out of their mouth. Also, sipping water can be effective.

Monitor their breathing until it returns to normal; for an adult, the resting breath rate is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. See a medical professional if this is a regular occurrence.


First Aid Myth #7

Putting butter on a burn.

I was quite surprised to learn that many people still perform this procedure for burns, a practice my grandmother used many years ago.


Tepid water is still the best for burns; remove any jewellery or clothing from the burn area if possible; cool the burn for a good 20 minutes under cool running water until it cools; and then use a burn dressing or food-grade clingfilm to cover the wound and get it seen by a medical professional as soon as possible

Burns can scar, and burns can kill too, and the risk of infection is very high.


First Aid Myth #8

Removing wasp and bee stings with tweezers will get the poison out.

In fact, it will squeeze more poison into the body, making it worse.

This is a better way…

Scrape the skin with a blunt object like a plastic debit card, a ruler, or even the back of a knife to remove the sting, and then apply a little ice for 10 minutes to soothe the inflammation.

We need to monitor a casualty for an anaphylactic reaction, which can be extremely severe in some cases, and the person likely carries an EpiPen or something similar. It’s also quite common to have a minor reaction for a while. An over-the-counter antihistamine from a pharmacy would help.

A severe allergic reaction needs an immediate ambulance transfer to A&E. If they have an Adrenaline auto-injector, then they should use it while waiting for the ambulance crew to arrive.


At the time of writing this blog, there were over 40 different types of seizures. These range from brief absent moments to full convulsions. There are also many causes of seizures. But in the first-aid environment, we have two categories:

  • Convulsive
  • Non-convulsive

First Aid Myth #9

You should hold down the person who is having a seizure; you should put something in their mouth to stop them from biting their tongue.

Perhaps this is a better way

At the time of writing this blog, there were over 40 different types of seizures. These range from brief absent moments to full convulsions. There are also many causes for seizures. However, in the first-aid context, we can categorise seizures into two groups:

  • Convulsive
  • Non-convulsive

First Aid Myth #9

You should restrain a seizure victim and prevent them from biting their tongue.

Perhaps this is a better way.

You should NOT do anything apart from making the area safe; place padding under the casualty’s head and time the length of the convulsive seizure.

So what horrified me?
I have been a first-aid trainer for over 30 years, and I had never seen this before.

A young lady dropped to the floor on the high street and started having a seizure. A young lad flung himself on top of the lady, spread-eagled. I quickly dragged him off, and a bystander promptly placed their jacket under the lady’s head.

I asked what you thought you were doing, and he said protecting her from endangering herself.

He said I learned this recently on a first aid course.

I asserted that the instruction you received was erroneous, as we definitely don’t practice it.

What you can do…

Make the area safe, place something under the casualty’s head, and time the length of the convulsion.

If the person is known to have convulsions, then there is not too much of a problem, but if unknown and you are not first aid trained, then make a call to emergency services, and they will guide you and send you assistance.


First Aid Myth #10

Give them hot, sweet tea. Although it’s not a good idea, some people still do it.

So what is shock?

The low volume of circulating fluids causes hypovolaemic shock, the most common type of shock.

Blood loss, excessive sweating, severe dehydration, or extensive burns to the body could cause this.

What should you be doing?

You should find the cause of the shock and treat it. If a bleed is present, it is imperative to stop it.

Lay the casualty down, lift their legs, keep them warm, give them no fluids, and transport them to the hospital.

About Us

Warwickshire First Aid Training is a highly regarded and respected first responder-led first aid training provider based in Rugby that delivers first aid training throughout Warwickshire. They provide customised first aid training at company locations, ensuring that the training aligns well with their first aid needs and specifications.

We have a first aid training centre in Rugby, Warwickshire, which is ideal for smaller companies and individuals who require first aid training up to national standards.

All first aid courses are Ofqual-regulated and accredited by Qualifications Network UK, one of the larger awarding organisations for health and safety and first aid qualifications in the UK.

Our first aid training team and assessors are all first responders with a combined 50+ years of practical experience on the front line as well as in the delivery of high-quality first aid training.

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