Five First Aid Foul-ups

First Aid Foul-ups? Yes indeed! We often say that first aid is common sense and you probably know more of it, correctly, than you realise. Still there are several myths which come up time and again in training classes, so let’s review five first aid foul-ups you are never going to make – at least from now on.

 Yummy – buttered burn!


There are right & wrong ways to use butter

Topping our list of first aid foul-ups has to be putting butter on a burn. Perhaps memories of what ‘Granny’ did when you were little influence this one. But let’s think about it: if you want to cook some meat, what do you need?

  • Meat (your hand)
  • Heat (the cause of the burn)
  • Fat/oil (the butter)

Yes, it might feel cold the second it comes out of the fridge, but that won’t last. Buttering a burn is a great way to keep the heat inside it even longer, and make things worse. Which goes against the 3 Ps of First Aid we talked about some time ago. Keep the butter for pop-corn.

First Aid Fact

Burns need cold, running water. Probably for ten minutes, at times longer. Cool them and cover them. See this post for more information.

Born with a Silver Spoon


Our next first aid foul up is becoming less common in class, but still we hear it often enough. If someone is having a seizure, people want to put spoons (or pencils, fingers, etc.) into their mouth to stop them biting their tongue. Which is all very kind, except that when they bite down hard on a metal spoon, they just break teeth instead – and that’s a choking hazard (which is more work for you).

First Aid Fact

For seizures, nothing in the mouth and do not hold them down. Keep them safe and let the seizure happen naturally. It will stop before you finish panicking (if not, consider if EMS is needed).

Nose bleed feed

You’ve seen this first aid foul-up in the movies for sure, and it still confuses people in class. If a person has a nose-bleed, tip their head back…. and give them a throat full of blood and snot to choke on. Not the kindest approach to first aid.

First Aid Fact

For a nose bleed, tip the head forward and let the blood drain away. If you’re that worried about your white wool carpet (or your kid simply doesn’t like the sight of blood), let the blood drain into grass, or use a dark coloured towel.

Tie it Tighter


Do not do this. Not ever.

Another movie classic, another first aid foul-up. If someone is bleeding significantly then remove your belt and tie it round the affected limb. Once you have successfully tied the belt very tight, bleeding will stop. Which is great and just what you want.

Unfortunately circulation to the rest of the limb will also stop and your casualty gets anything ranging from minor tissue damage, to major tissue injury all the way up to gangrene depending on how long you cut off the circulation for. Which is not what you want.

First Aid Fact

Appropriate dressings to the wound, tight tightly, and with additional dressings when needed are probably all you’ll ever need to control bleeding. Come to class to see how it’s done! If you must use indirect pressure, apply it as you were trained, and using only your own fingers/body.

Throw up Poisons

PoisonOur final first aid foul-up (for today!) is thankfully becoming less mentioned in class, but there are still people who think every first aid kit should have a bottle of syrup of ipecac. This is used anytime someone swallows something toxic and makes them throw up.

So let’s say your kid gets a bottle of bleach and has a drink before realising how bad it tastes. The bleach burns all the way down. They you make them throw up and it burns all the way back up again. That’s not helpful to anyone

First Aid Fact

Call the poisons control centre (on 1-800-567-8911 in BC). There are very few poisons for which we ‘do’ a lot, but they’ll be able to tell you the correct action to take for any poison at all. (PS: This is not a challenge! Keeps your poisons locked away and appropriately labelled.)

Got any others you want to add? Use the comment box below to tell us!

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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