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 too. I saw one recently, and I was shocked and had to intervene quickly before someone got hurt. To learn more about what happened, look out for First Aid Myth 9

Get yourself a coffee and have a read of the top 10 myths in first aid.

Learning how to give first aid.

First Aid Myth #1
I don’t need any first aid training because I will call an ambulance, and they 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.

What people don’t understand is that the ambulance service has a triage system, and they use this system to prioritise who gets seen first. So if you have someone who is not breathing or has had a catastrophic accident, then this would be a priority over a broken leg, for example.

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 truth is…

If they are so complicated to use, why are they in various locations throughout the country and more getting added to the network all of the time?

Anyone can use a defibrillator because, once switched on, they guide you through the steps they want you to take. 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 chance goes from 6% up to 70%, and for every minute wasted, this drops by 10%. If you couple this with good-quality CPR, the casualty has a very good chance of survival.

Placing your head between your knees if you feel faint

First Aid Myth #3

You should place your head between their knees if they feel faint.

The truth is…

Placing their head between their knees will more than likely cause them to roll forward, and they could end up with more problems.

You feel faint because of the lack of blood going to your head, so by laying them down, raising their legs, and supporting them on a box or something similar, the blood will run from their legs towards their head, and within a few minutes, they will start to feel better. Breathing should be monitored, and you must be prepared to start CPR if they stop breathing.

Swallowed toxic or corrosive substance

First Aid Myth #4

You should make them sick or make them drink large amounts of fluid to dilute it.

The truth is…

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

Allowing small amounts of water to rinse out the mouth, sipping water or milk, and staying calm is the best course of action. Gathering any evidence of what the casualty has swallowed will be very helpful to the emergency services and also A&E.

• Even flat button batteries are toxic if swallowed and are becoming more commonplace 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

Tilting their head back to stop a nosebleed will cause them to swallow the blood and cause them to 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 one.

What you should be doing…

Pinch the soft tissues on the bridge of the nose and hold 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. If it is still bleeding, then a visit to A&E will be needed.


First Aid Myth #6

Use a paper bag for rebreathing to stop them from hyperventilating.

(This hasn’t been used within the first aid world since 1990 due to the risk of hypoxia.)

What you should be doing…

It can be simply treated by getting the casualty to count to two between breathing in and out, or breathing through their nose and out through their mouth. Also, sipping water can be effective.

Monitor their breathing till the breathing returns to normal, the resting breath rate is between 12-20 breaths per minute for an adult. If this is a regular occurrence then being seen by a medical professional is advised.


First Aid Myth #7

Putting butter on a burn.

I was quite surprised at how many still do this for a burn, something my grandmother did many years ago.


Tepid water is still the best for burns; remove any jewellery or clothing if possible from the burn area; cool the burn for a good 20 minutes under 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.

It will, in fact, 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.

A casualty needs to be monitored for an anaphylactic reaction; this can be very severe in some instances, and the person probably 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 awaiting 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

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 quickly 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 that recently on a first aid course. I said you have been taught incorrectly because we most certainly don’t do that.

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 not too much of a problem, but if unknown and you are not first aid trained then a call to Emergency services, and they will guide you and send you assistance.


First Aid Myth #10

Give them hot, sweet tea. (Not a good idea, although some people do.)

So what is shock?

Shock can occur in many forms, but the most common type is hypovolaemic shock, which is caused by the low volume of circulating fluids. This could be due to blood loss; it could also be caused by excessive sweating, severe dehydration, or extensive burns to the body.

What should you be doing?

You should find the cause of the shock and treat it. If it’s a bleed, then that needs to be stopped. Lay the casualty down, raise the legs, keep them warm, give them no fluids, and get them off to the hospital.

About Us

Warwickshire First Aid Training is a highly regarded and respected first aid training provider based in Rugby that delivers first aid training throughout Warwickshire. Offering bespoke first aid training on company sites, so the first aid training they receive will be a good fit and relevant to their first aid needs and requirements.

We have an open-course 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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