First Aid Myths

How often have you heard that you should put butter on burns? That if you do chest compressions on somebody, and break their ribs, you can get sued? Or that you cannot put a plaster on a child’s cut finger? These and many other myths, can in some cases, result in death, and as such should be ignored.

So, for a moment, let us think about putting butter on burns. What do you think will happen? Yes, it will melt, and can increase the severity of the burn. What do fire fighters generally put on fires? Water, to cool it down.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the governing body for health and safety, are clear on this. If there is a hole in the skin, infection may get in, so cover the hole.

If you break the ribs on someone who is not breathing, whilst performing chest compressions. Ask yourself, what will happen to them if you don’t do chest compressions? Yes, they will die. Broken bones heal, but if you do not do chest compressions, their brain will be starved of oxygen, and brain damage can occur. Brain damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. Google the question and see what the results say.

You must not remove the crash helmet of a motorcyclist. Yes, that is correct, if they are conscious and breathing. However, if they are unconscious, their airway is at risk. Section 283 of the highway code, States “… you may remove the crash helmet of a motorcyclist, if it is appropriate to do so…” If the motorcyclist is unconscious, their airway is at risk, and they can stop breathing. So yes, there are times when it is appropriate to do so. Around 75% of people who die on the road, die from a blocked airway, resulting in them being unable to breathe, not from their injuries. The brain can survive for around three minutes without oxygen. The target time for an ambulance to get to them in, is eight minutes. So, if you do nothing, what do you think will happen? If not brain damage, they will die.

You should vigorously cough, if you think you are having a heart attack. There is no clinical evidence to support this, and organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, do not recommend it.,heart%20attack%20and%20are%20alone.&text=You%20would%20become%20unconscious%2C%20and,breaths)%2C%20you%20would%20die.To be honest, if you think you are suffering from a heart attack, are you really going to be thinking “I must cough vigorously.” Well no. What you need to do is call for an ambulance.

If I use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) on someone, can I harm them? The AED will only let you deliver a shock to someone, if they are in Ventricular Fibrillation (VF). In this instance, the patient will be unconscious and not breathing, or on occasions, not breathing normally. This is called agonal gasps and is not normal breathing.


If someone is hyper-ventilating, get them to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag. So, if you only have a white paper bag, you cannot do this? It’s what they do in films and on the TV, so it must be right. If we do this, we are reducing the amount of oxygen that the patient is breathing in. Going back to the fact that the brain will only survive for around three minutes, without oxygen, is this a good idea? What makes people hyperventilate? It could be anxiety,  traumatic injury, severe bleeding, Hypoxia (low levels of oxygen in the blood). So, they need oxygen

If you have any questions, regarding any of these, or other potential first aid myths, or would like to book a course to learn more, feel free to contact us at We would be happy to help.

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