Many “old wives tales” get passed down and unfortunately many of these are not only incorrect, they can make a serious situation even worse.

Basic first aid knowledge has the potential to turn the situation around.

Mary Dawes, Director of First Aid For You, shares some of these first aid myths with us:

Myth 1:

At the top of the list is putting garlic on bee stings.

Putting anything on top of where the sting is can push the stinger further into the skin and cause more pain.

Try and scrape the stinger out – but don’t pull it out, as you risk only removing the top.

“Best advice here is seek medical assistance urgently if showing signs of an allergic reaction, if not, place a cold pack on the area to relieve any swelling and discomfort,” says Mary.

In relation to stings and bites, as a parent it’s vital that you’re proactive and check in the warmer months your kids’ cubby houses, under play mats, sheds and ceilings for spiders and other potentially dangerous insects before letting kids play out side (especially if being dormant for a few days – or longer if you’ve been away on holidays).

Myth 2:

Number two is breathing into a paper bag to prevent hyperventilating.

We’ve all seen movies where someone who is nervous, breathes into a brown paper bag. This is the worse thing you can do according to Mary, “It actually increases carbon dioxide which isn’t good in this situation.

If possible, make your way outdoors and try and control your breathing by breathing in and out slowly and counting to ten.”

If it’s your child, it’s vital that you remain calm to help your child regain control of their breathing.

Make your way outdoors and sit somewhere quiet and away from distractions. Afterwards try and keep your child calm for as long as possible.

Myth 3:

A common myth, which seems to always reappear at summer time, is the idea that urinating on a jellyfish or bluebottle sting will alleviate the pain.

Aside from the embarrassment factor, urinating on someone is just unhealthy.

What you should try to do is put an amount of vinegar on the sting (for a box jellyfish); usually the Surf Life Saving Officers have some on hand, or wash under warm water for a bluebottle sting.

Myth 4:

During stressful situations, some people suffer from a nose bleed, it doesn’t matter if the nose bleed has come on as a result of stress or the consequence of an accident, you need to put your head forward immediately.

Do not put your head backwards, as this will cause you to swallow blood.

Allow the blood to flow out and squeeze ‘soft part of the nose’ not the bridge of your nose, attempting to stop the flow of blood. Placing a cold pack on your forehead or back of neck can also assist.

Myth 5:

When it comes to burns, there’s only one immediate action to take – place the burn under cold gentle running water.

I’ve heard so many people saying, what about butter?

This does nothing for the healing process and can lead to contamination and infection. Place the burn under cold running water for 20 minutes, at no time are you to place ice on a burn either, as this may create a cold burn, on top of the existing burn.

These tips and advice are no substitute for first aid knowledge, Mary urges.

A first aid course – especially one where you will be certified in first aid will equip you with the skills needed in such an emergency and you’ll be grateful you spent the time learning the vital skills.

For any more tips on first aid or information on courses run by First Aid for You, click here.

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  • Myth 2 came as a surprise, thanks for clarifying that.


  • I used to worry about my confusion when it came to applying first aid, so I took myself off and dud a first aid course. Best thing I ever did!


  • My mum taught us to put toothpaste onto our burn wound whenever we got burn in the kitchen!


  • I hadn’t heard of any of these which is a good thing I suppose!!


  • some great tips. often too many people dont realise the right way to do things…thanks!


  • Serious question: why is urinating on someone actually unhealthy when urine is pretty sterile? Not that I would go around peeing on others, but as a reason not to pee on someone who is stung, why?


  • Thanks for these, when I first became a mum I had so many “helpful” comments and tips from my MIL and most were completely wrong old wives tales. Its great to see you dispelling a lot of myths because in times of vulnerability its easy to believe the older generation.


  • These are great tips, thank you.


  • Good sensible tried and trusted tips always the best way to go.


  • Thanks for the heads up. Already knew some


  • what fantastic info to know. especially the nose bleed one. i was always taught to tilt head backwards.


  • Yes, yes, and more yes. I’m getting a bit tired of the old wives tales that do more harm than good.


  • Well the urinating does help if vinegar Isn’t available and who would be dumb enough to put butter on a burn? Didn’t know about keeping your head forward for nosebleed though, good to know.

    • no keeleynme, urine DOES NOT HELP! it’s an urban myth, and something that gets raised in every first aid class I teach. It does absolutely nothing to help


  • it is a shame preschools or schools could not put on first aid courses for parents that provide childcare this would make it so much easier for parents to aquire updated first aid skills and maybe at a bulk group price

    • yesi know that this is such a handy thing to know


  • i took a first aid course when i get pregnant. you are only certified for 2 years then you need to do your refresher course. it is something that you should know how to do especially if you have children.


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