9 First Aid Mistakes Explained by a Specialist
A specialist in first aid, explains the most widespread and dangerous mistakes people make when providing medical help to others.
Sometimes, the first aid measures taken on the scene before a patient arrives at the hospital can make all the difference. Here are the 9 most common first aid mistakes — and what you should do instead.
1. Don’t apply cream to burns straightaway. When the skin is burned, it experiences excess heat which goes deeper into body tissue. The best thing to do in this situation is place the affected area in cold water for about 15 minutes. This will help the excess heat to dissipate. Don’t rub anything into the skin straightaway, as this will trap the heat — only do this after 20 minutes or more.
2. Trying to make yourself sweat when you have a temperature is a bad idea. When you’re ill, feeling hot when you’re shivering at the same time indicates that your body temperature is rising. When we wrap up warmly, our temperature goes up even faster. Although the heat helps us fight against infection, a body temperature that’s higher than 38°С does more harm to the body than good.
If you have a high temperature combined with the shakes, you need to get cooler rather than warmer.
3. Don’t apply a tourniquet to a wound if there isn’t any arterial bleeding. Arterial bleeding is easy to spot, and not on account of the color of the blood as you might have been told in school. In the arteries, blood is pumped at high speed under pressure, so it comes out of a wound not as a trickle but like a fountain.
In such cases, you need to press down on the artery in the groin or under the armpit IMMEDIATELY, and draw the limbs closer to the torso using a tourniquet or a belt wrapped around the clothes. If there is venous bleeding, a bandage should be applied, but not a tourniquet, as this could drain the limb of blood in a way that can’t be reversed.
4. Don’t try to draw out the tongue of someone who’s fallen unconscious. It is dangerous for an unconscious person to lie on their back, as their tongue can fall back and block their airways. To make sure this doesn’t happen, it’s enough to just turn the individual over onto their side or move their head back. You shouldn’t try to pull their tongue out of their mouth.
5. Evaluate your strength and think logically before you try to help someone. In an emergency, you should always consider first what actions might cause you harm, and you should help only when you’re certain that you won’t endanger yourself by doing so. For example, if you touch a person who’s been electrified, then there’s going to be two casualties instead of one. In this case, you need to turn off the current at the source, or use a wooden object to separate the victim from the source of the current.
6. Don’t rub frostbitten parts of the body. When we rub frozen extremities we damage our capillaries, which makes the situation worse. Hot water is also too radical a method to help here. If you’ve been frostbitten, you should try to warm the affected body parts slowly — place your hands in cold water, gradually increasing its temperature.
7. If someone’s choking, don’t pat them on the back. If you pat the person on the back, you’ll only cause whatever it is they’re choking on to pass further down into their windpipe. What you should do instead is help the person lean over, make sure they’re calm, and tell them to breathe in very slowly two times. This will help ease the choking and bring up the object blocking their airways.
8. Don’t drag someone who may be injured anywhere without medical professionals present. If an accident occurs on the road, don’t move an injured person, and definitely don’t try to drag them out of the car on your own. You’ll only make things worse. This rule can be infringed only in the most extreme situations — for instance, if the vehicle has caught fire.
This is what you need to do instead:
Call for an ambulance.
If you can, turn off the vehicle’s engine, and cut the power to its battery.
Stop any bleeding.
Help the victim to keep calm.
9. Don’t put anything in the mouth of a person who’s experiencing an epileptic fit. You can break someone’s teeth if you put something in their mouth. During a fit, an epileptic person cannot bite off their tongue, as it’s being strained with great force. They can only bite it slightly, but this won’t cause any major harm.
The best thing you can do to help is place something soft under their head, as this will help them avoid receiving any concussion of the brain. When the spasms have passed, turn the individual over onto their side.