Debunking First-Aid Myths
Food is best eaten, not used for injuries
Put butter on a burn.
First-degree burns – the skin is red, but still feeling normal – can be treated at home, but don’t pull out the butter dish. Butter may do wonders for your mashed potatoes, but it does nothing for burns except add foreign particles and increase the risk of infection. Reach for a cool cloth and a frozen bag of vegetables instead.
Minor burns need to be cooled, so run cool water over the burned area for at least 10 minutes and then apply an over-the-counter antibiotic.
Throw back your head if you have a nose bleed.
Never tilt your head back to stop a nose bleed as it will only make the blood flow down the throat into the lungs or into the stomach, which may cause vomiting. To stop a bloody nose, lean slightly forward and pinch your nose just below the bony part where glasses sit using your thumb and index finger. Press firmly for no less than five to 10 minutes. If a bloody nose follows an accident or injury to the head, seek medical attention immediately. Also contact your primary care doctor if you have frequent nosebleeds or if they are difficult to control.
Apply cold only to a twisted knee or ankle.
How you treat a twisted ankle or knee depends on the stage of the injury. If you can immediately treat the area, use RICE: rest, ice for the first 24 hours, compress gently with a bandage, and elevate the twisted area over the level of your heart. Applying ice reduces swelling and pain and limits any internal bleeding at the injury site. To use ice effectively, place it on the affected area in a thin towel for 20 minutes at a time.
Apply heat to an injury after the first few days, when the inflammation has decreased and increasing blood flow to the area can provide healing nutrients. Your primary care doctor can help evaluate the injury.
Apply a cold steak to a black eye.
Keep the steak for dinner and bring out that bag of frozen vegetables instead. Your frozen steak may have bacteria on it, so covering your eye with it is not recommended. Instead of steak apply a crushed ice pack or the frozen vegetable package to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time. If the eyeball itself is damaged or if the vision is affected, see your doctor.
Clean a cut or scrape with hydrogen peroxide.
Using hydrogen peroxide to clean an injury can actually harm the tissue and delay healing. The best way to treat a minor cut or scrape is to cool and clean it with cool water, rinsing thoroughly to remove dirt, debris, and bacteria. Protect the injury with a bandage and see your doctor for a wound that is large, deep, or bleeding nonstop.
Lawrence Schlitt, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic, Del Mar. Dr. Schlitt provides compassionate care, emphasizing the whole person and a happy, healthy lifestyle. Dr. Schlitt has expertise in preventive care and treating allergies. Outside of the office, he enjoys the San Diego sunshine with activities such as running, hiking and gardening.
Looking for a new doctor? To find a Scripps physician near you, call 858-223-1244 or visit www.scripps.org/92067.