Don't Butter Your Burns (And 7 Other Medical Misconceptions)
These medical techniques may have been passed down for generations, but unlike Grandma's chocolate cookie recipe, they do not hold up over time.
In the practice of
bloodletting, doctors drained patients' blood in hopes that it would help them stave off illness. It was a dubious practice that was used to treat everyone from medieval peasants to George Washington, and suffice it to say, usually did little to help affected patients.
Thankfully, bloodletting has gone out of style, and most doctors and citizens are as well-informed about proper medical care as they've been at any point in history.
However, a number of misconceptions about what to do in medical emergencies or first aid situations still swirl around in the American consciousness. Put grease on a burn? Peroxide on an open cut? If someone has a seizure, should you be reaching for your wallet?
1. Butter is for bread. Toothpaste is for teeth. Neither are for burns.
Robb Rehberg is the director of first aid training and program development at the
National Safety Council, an organization that eliminates preventable death through education and advocacy. He meets with a wide range of Americans to train them about proper emergency medical procedures and is very familiar with the inaccurate treatments that are still rattling around out there.
Rehberg asserts that one of the most common misconceptions he's encountered involves treatment of burns. Over time, some folks have believed that a bit of butter can help sooth a burn, but that's just not true. Explains Rehberg on treating burned skin with some Land O' Lakes: "We're not trying to cook people. Not quite sure where butter came from, but I've heard it before. We certainly don't want to put butter on a burn."
The truth is this: not only is butter not an effective burn treatment, but it can actually make the situation worse.
The first thing that must happen after a burn is cooling of the skin, but Rehberg says butter – or other home treatments – will not be helpful.
"The skin has been burned and it needs to cool itself. Butter or any ointment is clogging up pores where heat dissipation occurs. We are hindering the body's ability to cool itself."
Rehberg also says that toothpaste is a common household burn remedy, mostly because it usually feels cool to the skin, but that the "cooling" is just a chemical reaction that is actually irritating the skin, the last thing you want to do to a sensitive burn area.
The best burn fix? A simple running of cool water for about 20 minutes. According to Rehberg, you could also treat the affected area with a burn-specific ointment or aloe vera gel. These substances will actually help cool the burn rather than gunk it up like a stack of pancakes at IHOP.
2. If you're cleaning a wound, keep the peroxide away.
Another common misconception Rehberg hears from students he teaches at the NSC is the use of peroxide on a wound.
"Every medicine cabinet has peroxide. It's not the best thing for an open wound," states Rehberg about the all-too-familiar brown bottle of searing pain. While it may help sterilize a cut, the age-old favorite of teachers and moms could do plenty of damage as well.
"You might be killing bacteria, but you're also killing healthy skin cells," explains Rehberg. Such an act could hamper the wound's ability to heal or leave a more noticeable scar.
The best remedy for cuts and wounds of a manageable size is a simple one: soap and water. A deliberate wash in the sink followed by an appropriately-sized bandage will be more than enough medical attention to allow your body to do what it does best: heal itself.
This is all assuming, of course, that the cut is of a manageable size and won't need stitches. In every true medical emergency, you should dial 911 for assistance. Or, if your injury isn't quite so perilous, call your primary care physician for tips on how to handle a less severe medical situation.
3. Don't tip your head back for a bloody nose.
First aid expert Andrew Berger, owner at Healthline First Aid, says his most encountered treatment misconception is that bloody noses should be treated by pinching the nose and tipping the head back.
People often pinch their nose and hold their head back," he says. "While the first half is correct, people should hold their head forward instead." Indeed, while there may be an instinct to tilt back to avoid getting blood on one's clothes, it's not the best orientation for your head at that moment.
"Blood irritates the stomach, and you may swallow the blood with your head backwards, causing you to vomit," Berger says.
Furthermore, though bloody noses can be just a minor annoyance, if they persist or go untreated it is advisable to talk to a medical professional right away. An extended bloody nose could be a sign of extremely high blood pressure, says Berger, so any nosebleed that isn't quickly controlled by tissues and pinching of the nose should be treated with immediate professional care.
4. The truth about frostbite and hot water.
There's a belief that if any skin or limbs fall victim to frostbite, the affected area should be heated up as quickly as possible with hot water. However, this isn't exactly what medical professionals recommend.
First of all, cold limbs don't necessarily mean frostbite. The first stage of frostbite is frostnip, which doesn't cause permanent skin damage and should not be treated with hot water. There's no need to get the tea kettle whistling for a case of frostnip. Instead, says Berger, it can be treated by gently rewarming the area with mild to warm water.
When it comes to true frostbite, Rehberg says there is no better treatment than contacting the professionals: "If we're in a situation where we have frostbite and we are close to medical help, we just want to make sure we activate the EMS system." In certain frostbite cases, a form of reheating the body will include the use of very warm water—"about 110 degrees"—but that this practice is reserved for those with proper training to avoid further injury.
One of the dangers of treating frostbite on your own in the wild is the risk of the affected parts refreezing if subjected to the elements again: "You may actually be causing more damage," warns Rehberg. For emergencies, there is a practice called wet-rapid rewarming that Rehberg states is "reserved for controlled environments like in a medical facility or advanced courses like wilderness first aid."
What is the Polar Vortex?
The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth's poles. It ALWAYS exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term "vortex" refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream. This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States.
There are several things the polar vortex is NOT. Polar vortexes are not something new. The term "polar vortex" has only recently been popularized, bringing attention to a weather feature that has always been present. It is also not a feature that exists at the Earth's surface. Weather forecasters examine the polar vortex by looking at conditions tens of thousands of feet up in the atmosphere; however, when we feel extremely cold air from the Arctic regions at Earth's surface, it is sometimes associated with the polar vortex. This is not confined to the United States. Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex. By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold.
In short, there is no cause to be alarmed when you hear about the polar vortex, but you should be prepared for colder temperatures. Check the forecast for your area on
weather.gov to ensure you are dressed appropriately. It is also a good idea to check the items in
your home and car emergency kits at the beginning of each winter season to ensure you are prepared for any type of hazardous winter weather.
Source: The National Weather Service
Online Trade Safe Zones
E-Commerce Safe Zones are popping up at police stations nationwide as authorities try to clamp down on crime associated with online trade through websites such as Craigslist or Ebay. More than 100 police departments now provide space in their lobbies or parking lots where people can make their deals and know that police are only a few feet away.
The Safe Zones give the buyer and the seller a feeling of comfort, safety and security. By completing the transaction in a police facility, there's certainly much less likelihood for fraud or criminal activity. Check your local police department for Safe Zones next time you sell or buy off of a classified website.
February is American Heart Month
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the top cause of death. Sudden cardiac arrest affects about 1,000 people each day in the U.S. – with only a 10% survival rate when it occurs outside of hospitals. The number of survivors can increase to about 40% if bystanders would provide CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) before EMS arrives.
In observance of American Heart Month, here are some reminders and quick tips regarding heart health and the appropriate action to take in an emergency until professional help arrives.
What is the difference between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?
With a heart attack, the person is awake and the heart is beating. With sudden cardiac arrest, the person is unresponsive (not awake) and the heart is not beating.
It is important to know the signs of a heart attack, so you will be ready to react in the proper manner. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but more start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. To determine if you, or someone you know, is suffering from a heart attack, look for the following evidence:
- Chest discomfort: Pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest that lasts for a few minutes or comes and goes
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath: Often accompanies chest discomfort
- Other signs: May include lightheadedness, fainting, sweating or nausea
- Women should be aware that they also may experience atypical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea or headache
First aid for heart attack:
- Call 911 immediately
- Have the person rest in a position for easy breathing
- Have the person chew one adult aspirin or two "baby" aspirin if the person is not allergic to it and has no contraindications to aspirin (evidence of a stroke or internal bleeding)
First aid for sudden cardiac arrest is to call 911, provide CPR (at least hard, fast chest compressions) and use an AED.
Registration is Open
Registration is now open for the 2018 NSC Southern Safety Conference & Expo (formerly NSC Texas Safety Conference & Expo). This year we have changed the name and location, but you'll find the same great educational and networking opportunities we've always offered. Now in the Big Easy, you'll find it even easier to connect with safety professional from the Gulf Coast Region. Register today!
Stop the Bleed
Launched in October 2015 by the White House, Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and a call to action. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.
No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes, therefore it is important to quickly stop the blood loss. Those nearest to someone with life threatening injuries are best positioned to provide first care. According to a recent National Academies of Science study, trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 46.
Be aware of your surroundings and move yourself and the injured person to safety, if necessary.
You may be able to save a life by taking simple actions immediately. Here are three actions you can take to help save a life:
How is Fatigue Affecting Your Workforce?
Surely we've all felt a little tired from time to time, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70% of Americans report they get insufficient sleep. Did you ever think about what this missed sleep is costing your organization? Sleep disorders are common, but they often go undiagnosed and untreated. Reduced alertness as a result of sleep deficiency or untreated sleep disorders contributes to:
- Missed days of work
- Diminished performance and lower workplace productivity
- Increased health care expenditures for illnesses and treatment of multiple conditions
- Workplace accidents and occupational injuries
- Motor vehicle crashes
These outcomes can result in substantial costs to employers. In fact, fatigue is estimated to cost employers about $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity, and up to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder.
The cost of fatigue is not just measured in lost productivity. Chronic sleep deprivation also causes depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and a host of other illnesses.
The Brigham and Women's Hospital Sleep Matters Initiative and the National Safety Council have teamed up to develop an online fatigue cost calculator that estimates the cost of sleep deficiency for individual businesses like yours. This tool asks users to enter their workforce size, industry and location. This information is used to predict the prevalence of sleep deficiency and common sleep disorders among employees.
The calculator draws from peer-reviewed scientific literature to further estimate costs associated with these conditions. Costs of sleep health education and sleep disorder screening programs are factored in to estimate the economic impact of improving employees' sleep health.
This tool can help you better understand the economic costs of sleep deficiency in your workplace, and estimate the potential return on investment of implementing an evidence-based program which seeks to improve sleep health and workplace safety, health and performance.
For instance, a typical employer with 1,000 employees can expect to experience more than $1 million lost each year to fatigue: $272,000 due to absenteeism and $776,000 due to presenteeism (being present at work but not fully functioning). An additional $536,000 in healthcare costs could be avoided with optimization of sleep health.
So take a quick moment right now and
try the calculator for yourself. Fatigue is a big problem that few people spend time thinking about, but at the Council we believe it's something all of our members should care about. Industry leaders have begun drawing attention to this issue, and as an employer, you are in an ideal position to educate your workers on how to stay healthier by getting good sleep. You can find more resources, including reports, infographics, webinar recordings and more on our
Meet Our Featured NSC Partner: QS2 CPR & First Aid Training
The NSC First Aid Department has a fantastic network of partners and providers who contribute to the success of the NSC brand. QS2 Training and Consulting out of Baldwin, NY, is one such partner. Employing several Master Instructors in the field, we can count on them to deliver training for some of our most prestigious clients.
Liz Box, the CEO of QS2 has more than 20 years of experience in delivering First Aid and related classes, especially in the child care environment. She serves as a CDA instructor and advisor as well as a National Association for Family Child Care observer. As a mentor and trainer for family child care providers, Liz leads the charge for the capable instructors at QS2, including Miguel Arroyo, Joan Capobianco, Jenny Distafen, Odalis Gaskins, Karen Guerinot, Elizabeth Guerinot, Kathleen Hattenback, Janiva Jones, Kristen Killion, Joanne Levine, Meagan Levine, Juan Vallejo, and Stephen Vallejo. Liz calls them her "heroes" and sends a special thanks to them for contributing to the success of QS2!
Celebrating its ninth anniversary, QS2 delivers training to early child care providers across the entire state of New York and teaches the necessary skills to save the life of a child in an emergency situation. To mark its ninth year, QS2 is excited to announce its expansion and ability to offer NSC training to the general public in a brand new facility. The NSC First Aid staff congratulates QS2 and looks forward to their continued superior training.
Stop Everyday Killers
22,000 people die every year from prescription opioid overdoses – one every 24 minutes – and yet 40% of those questioned in a recent poll still do not consider opioids to be a health and safety threat to their family.
By raising awareness about the risks associated with these medications, we can have an impact in every community. Share
this short film within your social networks, among those you know and those you love, and help the Council work to end preventable deaths in our lifetime.
For additional information, please
First Aid Instructor Resource Center
If you haven't visited the new Instructor Resource Center on the National Safety Council website, please take a look. It has been redesigned and is packed full of vital information, such as training tips, news and resources to help you conduct your trainings. You can
access the new resource center here.
Do You Know a First Aid Hero?
We are proud of our instructors and the important work they do. If you know anyone who has a first aid story they would like to share please direct them to
NSC.org/fahero to submit their story. Below is a recently submission.
Memorial Day will Never be the Same
My girlfriend and I were at the pool only 15 minutes when it happened. A man frantically ran outside asking for help. The man shouted:"My friend is in the deep end of the pool inside and he doesn't know how to swim."Before I could even fully process what the man said, I was already running in.
I dove to the bottom of the pool in an attempt to pull the man out of the water. Unfortunately, it was too deep for me to reach. It only lasted a couple seconds, but I will never forget that moment.
Fear washed across our faces as we realized that we could not reach him. We knew every second he was below water was decreasing the chance of survival. My girlfriend grabbed a hook and got it under his arms. When we pulled him out of the water, I immediately began performing CPR. My training from NSC had not been needed – until this moment. I did chest compressions while my girlfriend provided the breaths. We did not stop until after the paramedics arrived and gave us instructions to step away.
Unfortunately, the man passed away a few days later. We found out he had been under water for almost 13 minutes by the time we were aware of the situation. Considering how long has was under, there was truly nothing we could have done differently to save his life. Thanks to my NSC First Aid and CPR training, we gave this man any possible chance he might have had to survive. I am forever proud for how we reacted in this situation.
Get to Know the Pediatric First Aid, CPR & AED Program
Whether it's a simple cut or bruise or a life-threatening emergency, no one wants to see a child hurt. We have adapted all of the topics from our NSC First Aid, CPR & AED course to meet the special needs of infants and children in our NSC Pediatric First Aid, CPR & AED course.
Students will gain the hands-on training and confidence to respond in a variety of pediatric emergencies. The National Safety Council Pediatric Program meets the First Aid and CPR requirements for all 50 states and meets the latest CPR and ECC guidelines.
Participants will learn how to:
- Take action in a medical emergency
- Provide basic life support
- Treat bleeding and wound care
- Treat shock, burns and poisoning and deal with sudden illness
- Respond in cold and heat emergencies
- Ensure safety for children with disabilities
Who will benefit:
- Child care providers
- Early childhood educators
- Youth organizations
- Parents and grandparents
- Individuals requiring certification
For further information on our Pediatric First Aid, CPR & AED program,
Meet Stacey Delaney-Rhoiney
Many of you at some point through your career as an NSC first aid instructor have talked to Stacey Delaney-Rhoiney, our first aid national training and contract coordinator.
Coming from a long history of relationship management, Stacey knows a thing or two about bringing people together. Whether it is managing class logistics or recruiting instructors from around the country, Stacey is passionate regarding making certain that organizations get the important training they need. When she's not on the telephone or sending emails between a variety of salesmen, instructors and corporate stakeholders for NSC classes, she is happily baking, singing or studying.