Treating an injury promptly and properly can have a huge effect on recovery. But many patients still handle common wounds the wrong way – often thanks to old wives tales that won’t die. Here’s what some top international emergency-care doctors wish you knew:
Not treating a burn long enough
Forget butter or ice –the best way to soothe burned skin is to run it under cool water. But a few seconds or minutes aren’t enough, you need to do it for at least ten to 20 minutes, says Dr Jeffrey Pellegrino of the American Red Cross. “The heat from a burn travels deep into your skin, where it can continue to destroy tissue even if you’ve cooled the surface. You need the cold to soak in.”
Tilting your head back during a nosebleed
This can cause the blood to drain into the back of your throat, which can make you gag or cough, potentially obstructing breathing. Instead, apply direct pressure by pinching your nose, but keep your head in a neutral position with your chin parallel to the ground.
Putting heat on a sprain or fracture
“Always apply cold initially,” says Dr William Gluckman from the Urgent Care Association of America. Ice helps decrease swelling, whereas heat boosts blood flow, which can make swelling worse.
Trying to remove debris from an injured eye
Fishing around for the irritant can worsen the wound and even lead to permanent damage. Instead, secure a paper cup over the eye with tape so nothing else can get in and seek immediate care. The exception is if you get a chemical in your eye; in that case, flush it out with water for about 15 minutes.
Removing gauze from a bleeding wound
If the gauze pad soaks through, don’t replace it – just add a fresh piece of gauze on top, says Chris Cebollero, chief of Emergency Medical Services at Christian Hospital, St Louis. Clotting factors in blood attach to the wound surface, helping to stop bleeding; removing the old gauze can also remove those factors and make the wound start bleeding again. See a doctor for major bleeding.