First Aid – Old Wives’ Tales

Chances are, you have probably heard of these age old remedies for common ailments and you may even use some of them.  These treatments have been passed down through the generations, but do they actually work?  We have addressed several old wives’ tales below that simply don’t have the science to back up their claims.

  1. Hyperventilating into a paper bag.

For ages, people suffering from hyperventilation have been puffing into paper bags in attempts to restore carbon dioxide levels.  However, many studies now show that this method of treating hyperventilation may actually be very dangerous in certain situations where asthma and heart attack symptoms are confused with hyperventilation.  These cases can become deadly when oxygen intake is limited by the act of breathing into a bag.  The best, and safest, treatment is to practice slow deliberate breaths.

  1. Urinating on a jelly fish sting.

Besides being uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing, this treatment only works if the urine is acidic.  Depending on the person’s diet, that may not be the case, so this old wives’ tale is not very reliable.  However, vinegar has been shown to deactivate the venomous nematocysts released by the jellyfish and is likely a more preferred treatment for most people.

  1. Placing raw meat on a black eye.

This old wives’ tale boasts quicker healing for a black eye.  However, it instead places the eye at high risk for infection from bacteria living in the meat.  If you are looking for a safe option to soothe a black eye, choose ice or a bag of frozen vegetables. 

  1. Treating a burn with butter.

It is often believed that placing butter on a burn will help it to cool faster.  But in fact, butter does just the opposite, by coating the burn and slowing the release of heat.  Instead, try immersing minor burns in cool water for 10 minutes. 

  1. Using suction to remove snake bite venom.

There are few experiences that can illicit more terror than a bite from a poisonous snake or other creepy crawly.  And who hasn’t heard tales of this treatment in the wild west or seen drug store snake bit kits with plunger type instruments.  But unfortunately, the logic of removing venom before it spreads in the bloodstream is flawed, making anti- venom the only effective treatment for a snake bite.

  1. Treating a cut with peroxide.

Peroxide can actually cause harm tissue and further delay healing.  The best treatment for a minor wound is to clean the area with cool water and mild soap and dress it, to prevent infection and further injury.

  1. Tilting head back for a nose bleed.

While this may help to keep blood from ruining your clothes, it will not stop a nose bleed.  It can also cause you to swallow the blood, which may induce nausea.  Simply apply pressure directly beneath the bony part of the nose for 10 minutes, then allow the body’s natural clotting mechanism to work.

  1. Putting head between knees when feeling faint.

Following this old wives’ tale could result in a far more serious head injury, should you lose consciousness and fall.  Your best bet is to lie down to encourage blood flow to the brain and remain safe until the sensation of lightheadedness passes.