According to the Red Cross, these are the 10 most common first aid mistakes and what to do for each situation.
By knowing the correct response in an emergency you can help someone survive until help arrives, and make recovering from personal injuries faster.
Mistake #1: Putting butter or ice on burns.
Do This Instead: You should rinse the area with cool water and cover with a sterile dressing so you don’t damage the skin tissue. If the burn is severe, see a doctor.
Mistake #2: Inducing vomiting with your finger or by taking “syrup of ipecac” when a poisonous substance is swallowed.
Do This Instead: Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or your doctor. Inducing vomiting can be even more harmful. Don’t eat or drink anything unless directed by a medical professional.
Mistake #3: Treating a bleeding limb by applying a tourniquet.
Do This Instead: Pad the wound with sterile gauze, apply direct pressure and wrap the wound securely. Get medical help if the bleeding doesn’t stop, the wound is deep, or is caused by an animal bite.
Mistake #4: Applying heat to a sprain, strain, or fracture.
Do This Instead: Put an ice bag on the injury for 20 minutes to reduce swelling, and use a barrier between the ice and skin.
Mistake #5: Moving a car accident victim away from the scene.
Do This Instead: Leave the injured person in place until paramedics arrive – unless the car is on fire, in an unsafe location, or the person is not breathing and you have to perform CPR on a flat surface.
Mistake #6: Rubbing when there’s a foreign substance in your eye.
Do This Instead: Rinse the eye with tap water. Rubbing it could scratch the eye.
Mistake #7: Using hot water to thaw a cold extremity.
Do This Instead: Gradually warm the extremity by soaking it in lukewarm water. Drastic temperature change can cause further damage.
Mistake #8: Rubbing alcohol on the skin to reduce a fever.
Do This Instead: Lower the fever by giving ibuprofen. If a high fever continues for several days, see a physician or go to the ER. Using alcohol may cause alcohol poisoning, especially in young children.
Mistake #9: Treating an allergic reaction to bee stings at home.
Do This Instead: Call an ambulance if the victim has breathing problems, tight throat, or swollen tongue. Delaying professional treatment for a respiratory reaction could be fatal.
Mistake #10: Applying ointment to a cut or scrape, then covering it with a bandage, and leaving it untended to heal for a few days.
Do This Instead: First, wash the wound with soap and water. Bandage it and change the dressing twice a day. Since fresh air allows the wound to heal, it’s best not to use ointment, which can keep the wound moist. Use a looser dressing at bedtime so the wound can get air.