The Truth about Old Wives' First Aid Tales

Written by 

Old Wives First Aid Tales 2Being a business first aid trainer and experienced paramedic involves meeting lots of different people, from all walks of life. People with varying levels of first aid knowledge, skills and experience where first aid administration is concerned.


Along the way I get asked lots of first aid and medical emergency questions, which I'm always pleased to answer, but I'm sometimes surprised at how often an ‘old wives' tale’ is genuinely thought to be a truth. I’ve shared 10 of the most common myths we come across here:


1. Swallowing your tongue

You don’t swallow your tongue when you faint or have a seizure – As long as the airway is clear you can maintain it by placing the casualty in the recovery position


2.Silver spoons

A spoon in the mouth shouldn’t be used to open the airway – Never place anything in the mouth of a fitting patient. With the head in the right position, the airway becomes clear.


3. Butter on burns

Putting butter on a burn doesn’t cool it down – In fact it coats the burn and prevents it from cooling down as quickly as it would without the butter. Burns should be cooled by immersing in cold water for 10 minutes, if this doesn’t work then re-immerse in cold water for a further 10 minutes.


4.Tilting your head back

Throwing your head back doesn’t stop a nose bleed – All that is needed to treat a nose bleed is pressure. Pinch the nose tightly for 10 minutes below the bony part, and tilt the head forward to stop any blood from running down the throat. If it has stopped don’t sniff, blow your nose, or drink hot drinks for twelve hours or it may start again.


5.Peroxide on cuts

Using peroxide on cuts and grazes doesn’t speed up healing – The best treatment for flesh wounds is cleaning with water and applying a dressing and pressure for 10 minutes if necessary. Then leave well alone to allow the blood to clot and the healing process of the bleeding to begin.


6.Cardiac arrests are heart attacks

A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest. They are different – A heart attack happens when a blood clot lodges in an artery feeding the heart thus preventing blood and/or oxygen reaching all of the heart muscle, but the heart is still working. A cardiac arrest is when the heart fails to perform and blood is not pumped around the body.


7. A fracture is the same as a broken bone.


8. AEDs start stopped hearts

You cannot start a heart with defibrillator – A defibrillator stops the hearts erratic electrical activity to allow it to start again in a rhythm that will sustain life.


9.Paper bags

Breathing into a paper bag is not the treatment for a ‘panic attack’ – Reassure and calm the person and phone 111 for medical advice if needed.


10. Head between your knees

You shouldn’t put your head between your knees if you feel faint – Fainting could result in you falling head first onto the floor and sustaining a head injury. You should lie down to allow the blood to flow to your brain, this will ensure you are safe and have a quicker recovery.


And the list doesn’t stop here. We’ve heard of people giving alcohol to warm up hypothermic victims, peeing on jellyfish stings and applying a raw steak to a black eye. All common myths, but unfortunately ineffective.


All these topics and many more are covered in our A-Z of first aid signs and symptoms. Please click here if you would like to see them all >>


If you have any ‘old wives tales’ you would like to debate, or any questions or queries about first aid symptoms or treatments, please do get in touch.


First Response. Training for life. Training to save a life.

Last modified on Friday, 11 October 2019
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Sheila Mitchard

Sheila Mitchard DET IQA MSET - Training & Development

Paramedic. Phlebotomist. PTLLS/CTLLS. South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Member of the Society for Education and Training.

First Response Resuscitation & First Aid Training Ltd

9 Counterpool Road, Kingswood, Bristol BS15 8DQ

Tel: 0117 9496201



Registered Office:

86 Shirehampton Road, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 2DR

Company No. 06983048. Registered in England & Wales


Information Commissioner's Office (Data Protection Register): Registered Number Z1874 429


Terms & Conditions | Disclaimer

Cookies Policy | Privacy Policy | Coronavirus


© 2021 First Response. All rights reserved

Latest News

Resupply of Auto-injectors announced

Resupply of Auto-injectors announced Bausch & Lomb have announced that the 300 and 500 microgram...

Read More ...

Study of the quality of face masks

Study of the quality of face masks The quality of face masks healthcare workers wear makes a huge...

Read More ...

HPC reg logo CMYK    CPDcertified    CPDmember