In the middle of any kind of health emergency, large or small, you'll immediately be surrounded by friends shouting tips about how to handle it. When you get all of this conflicting advice, you wonder if their medical knowledge is coming from actual science, old wives' tales they heard from their grandma, or something they saw in a comic book. Don't bother asking -- they don't know, either. So, from time to time we like to go look up the actual medical advice from experts to find all of the ways conventional wisdom gets these things disastrously wrong.
5. Don't Tilt Your Head Back to Stop a Nosebleed
Whether these sudden gouts of blood are due to a dodgeball to the face or random chance, everyone instinctively does the same thing: squeeze the nostrils shut and tilt their head back. It makes sense, considering that the first order of business is to keep blood from running all over your one good T-shirt.
But Actually... Not only does holding your head back not do anything to actually stop the nosebleed, but it grants the blood free access to flow down your throat, which is actually a worse place for it to be than on your fancy shirt. Actually, this technique can result in choking, or, if the blood travels further down, stomach irritation and vomiting.
What Can You Do Instead? The consensus among doctors is that you should sit down, pinch your nose, and lean forward. Leaning forward will help you avoid swallowing your blood, pinching your nose will prevent the blood from escaping it, and sitting down will help you not be standing around like a jackass while waiting for the bleeding to stop. Most nosebleeds will stop by themselves within 10 minutes, so you can usually ride them out in this manner without making your house look like the finale of Django Unchained.
4. If Poisoned, Don't Induce Vomiting (Unless a Doctor Says So)
So your friend got distracted on beer night and accidentally drank a glass of paint thinner. Most of us probably know what to do about it, though -- after all, it's not rocket science. You have to get the poison out. Two fingers down the throat will bring that stuff right back up again.
But Actually... If some substance is doing damage to the inside of your friend's body, then it's going to do more damage on its way out. Many poisons are acidic or alkaline in nature, so although it would have been better not to swallow poison in the first place, bringing it back up via the esophagus can just burn your throat out.
Remember that your stomach is full of acid anyway -- it might be able to deal with an acidic substance. But anyone who has had to contend with heartburn knows that the throat doesn't deal with it so well. Your lungs, if you should happen to gag while blowing volatile acidic chunks, even less so.
What Can You Do Instead? Your problem is that there is no universal first-aid response for "poisoning" because there are a million different substances out there that all wreak havoc on your insides in different ways. You have to call for help -- and while you wait, you can make sure your friend doesn't have any poison left in his mouth. If he stops breathing, do CPR. But that's it, until you get instructions from somebody smarter than you.
3. A Cold Shower Does Nothing to Speed Sobriety
We were all young once, and some of us still are, so most of us know the joys of waking up drunk after a night of partying. So what happens if you have things to do and people to meet, but you still need to hold onto the walls to stop the room from spinning? Conventional wisdom says that you jump into a cold shower to scare your body sober.
But Actually... It turns out your shower water does not possess any magical healing properties. It does, however, have the ability to give you hypothermia when you're drunk. Alcohol does not warm you up. In fact, alcohol lowers your overall body temperature, so you're making things a lot worse when you add cold water to the equation.
Cold water doesn't cancel the effects of alcohol. Worse than that, in extreme cases, the shock of cold water may even knock a drunk person unconscious. So unless your weekend plans include lying naked in a pool of icy water, we strongly advise you to stay away from cold showers.
What Can You Do Instead? Although there are a million different folk cures for drunkenness, from coffee to a round of slaps to the face, the truth is that the only true way to sober up is to wait it out.
2. Don't Try to Fight a Burn With Something Cold
You probably know what a burn feels like. When you get one, instinct kicks in: cold defeats hot, therefore we must apply something cold to the burn. You grab some ice or a bag of frozen peas to soothe the pain.
But Actually... You might temporarily make the pain go away, but putting ice on a burn is sort of like stitching a wound with a nail gun -- you're just inflicting more damage. In one study on lab rats, researchers compared different remedies for burns, including a 10-minute application of ice cubes to the burn. They concluded that the ice cube treatment resulted in "the most severe damage," which careful readers will notice is not at all how remedies are supposed to work. In another study, researchers gave 24 healthy volunteers first-degree burns and then measured how they responded to what was a lab equivalent of ice-cooling a burn. The study has proven that the line between "researcher" and "sadistic madman" is often nonexistent, and that ice-cooling a burn did not result in less pain and inflammation when compared to the "doing nothing at all" treatment.
The thing is that ice can cause frostbite, which in itself is a form of burn and can only worsen the injury.
What Can You Do Instead? If you want immediate cooling, you can run some tap water over the burn to soothe the pain. Covering the burn with a sterile gauze bandage prevents air from getting to it, which will help further reduce the pain. Painkillers are also good for reducing pain, but hopefully you didn't need a comedy website to bring you such groundbreaking insights.
1. Urinating on a Jellyfish Sting Just Increases the Pain
At some point in humanity's long history of terrible ideas, somebody got stung by a jellyfish and somebody else decided to unzip their pants and try to piss it better.
But Actually... If you're stung by a jellyfish and someone starts spraying their pee all over it, you're going to wind up in more pain than you were before. You see, jellyfish stinging cells are actually activated by fresh water. That's their cue to start pumping venom into your flesh. Surprise: Your urine is mostly fresh water. If it's not, you have far bigger problems than jellyfish stings to worry about.
What Can You Do Instead? The most important thing is to try to get rid of the stinging cells. You can try to scrape these away with something (like a credit card). Afterward you can pour some salt water on the sting. Salt water, unlike urine, deactivates the stinging cells and eases the pain. As for the urine myth, professionals concede that, after the stingers have been removed, "warm urine might soothe the sting based on its warmth alone." You know what else can do that? Literally anything else in the world that happens to be warm.