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First Aid Myths: Ignore These Summer 'Cures'

Experts share first aid tips while debunking some common home remedies.
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Myth: If Something Gets Stuck in Your Flesh, Pulling It Out Is OK

This may be OK, O'Brien says, if the object is small, visible, and near the surface. But this probably does not apply to errant fishhooks. "You can cut the end of those and pull them out, but it's hard to do," he says. "I have trouble sometimes with a local anesthetic and a scalpel. An embedded fish hook may earn you a trip to the emergency department."

If you do remove an object, like a thorn, wash the wound well with soap and water, dry it, and bandage. A puncture wound -- especially a rusty nail -- requires a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the last five years.

Incidentally, the embedded object may be holding in the blood. When in doubt, see your doctor.

Myth: For Cuts and Scrapes, Apply Peroxide and Leave Open to the Air

"I am not a fan of peroxide," O'Brien says. Some authorities even think it can kill the body's cells that are rushing to fend off intruding bacteria and germs trying to enter the wound. O'Brien prefers soap and water -- or just clean water -- to flush out bits of dirt and irrigate the wound. Even hose water will do.

"We go by clean, treat, and protect," he says. Clean a cut or scrape, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage it. "Some people like to let wounds air, but I find they heal faster if they are protected. More importantly, if they are bandaged, the person, especially a child, will protect them better. You can't imagine how many times people will reinjure the same place! I see it all the time. Bandaging makes it less likely the wound will be reopened."

Any cut that goes beyond the top layer of skin might need stitches. Generally, the sooner stitches are put in, the lower risk of infection.

Myth: If You Get Shin Splints, Running More Will Ease Them

Anyone who has run or hiked too much without conditioning has probably experienced shin pain. "This is really called medial tibial stress syndrome," says Jim Thornton, MA, a certified athletic trainer and head trainer at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Basically the muscle attached to the shinbone is tearing loose. The inflammation -- or pain -- is a response on the way to healing.

"If you continue to pound the tears," Thornton tells WebMD, "it will not heal. The key is to have it evaluated because it means your muscles are out of balance. If you run again when the pain lets up, dial back the mileage, because shin splints can end up in a stress fracture."

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