When you’re scrambling to make a burn feel better or stop a bleeding wound, it helps to know what to do. We’ve all heard some common first aid folklore. But rather than helping, those first aid myths can actually make things worse. The following are a few common first aid mistakes and advice on what you should do instead.
You’ve probably heard the tip to put butter on a burn. But this is bad advice. Any greasy substance on a burn keeps heat in. This could make it hard for a burn to heal or be properly treated. Instead, run cold water over the burn to ease the pain. Then gently dry the area and keep it loosely covered. If it starts to blister, changes color, or seems infected, get medical treatment. Similarly, you might be tempted to run hot water over a frozen patch of skin or an arm or leg (limb) to warm it up. But this increases the risk of damaging the skin if the water is too hot. It is much better to slowly thaw the skin or limb with a warm — not hot — water bath.
For a deep wound in an arm or leg, you may think about tying a tourniquet around the thigh or upper arm to stop the bleeding. But that could stop the flow of blood to the entire limb. This could cause serious damage. Alternatively, apply direct downward pressure on the wound (use a thick layer of sterile gauze under your hands if it’s available). Then wrap the wound securely when the bleeding stops. If it continues to bleed or seems to need stitches, seek medical care.
Putting antibacterial ointment on a cut and then leaving on a bandage for a few days doesn’t speed healing. Doing this increases unwanted moisture over the cut. Clean the cut and apply ointment. But then let it heal in the fresh air. If you need a bandage to keep the cut clean, change it about twice a day. Also, keep the entire area clean and dry by using gentle soap and water when changing the bandage.
Another misconception found on the internet is putting coffee grounds on a cut to stop bleeding. Doing this to stop bleeding can infect a wound. It also makes it very hard for health care providers to clean out your wound if stitches need to be placed. Bleeding that can’t be stopped at home likely needs medical care anyway. Instead, apply direct downward pressure on the wound (use a thick layer of sterile gauze under your hands if it’s available). Then wrap the wound securely when the bleeding stops. If it continues to bleed or seems to need stitches, seek medical care.
Lastly, it’s important after first aid has been completed that nutrition plays a role in wound healing. Eat balanced meals including healthy proteins, like seafood, chicken, beans, and low-fat dairy products; green leafy vegetables – broccoli, kale, spinach, and whole grains, and drink plenty of water. Food choices and nutritional status influence wound healing since serious wounds increase the energy, vitamin, mineral, and protein requirements necessary to promote healing.
Cynthia Vuittonet, M.D., is part of the Center for Wound Healing at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center Perth Amboy’s panel of physician specialists. These experts provide care for patients on an outpatient basis utilizing a comprehensive healing approach, including diagnostics, customized treatment plans, advanced wound care products, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. To make an appointment with Dr. Vuittonet, call the Center at 732-324-3152.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
Questions, issues or concerns? I'd love to help you!