First Aid Myths: Ignore These Summer 'Cures'
Experts share first aid tips while debunking some common home remedies.
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."
Myth: If You Twist a Knee or Ankle, Apply Cold Only
If you hurt a joint, what to do depends on the stage of the injury, Thornton says. The RICE acronym can help you remember how to immediately treat an injury. Rest the injured area, ice it for 20 minutes for the first 24 hours (remove for at least 20 to 40 minutes in between), lightly compress it with a bandage, and elevate over the level of the heart.
What about heat? "I don't apply heat if there is swelling. But if the swelling goes on a few weeks, you can try a contrast bath -- heat, cold, heat, cold," Thornton says. "If there is no swelling, heat may be soothing. Sometimes, before a workout, heat can warm up the area, too."
If you cannot stand or walk, you should seek medical attention.
Myth: Put Vinegar Compresses on a Sunburn
Acid on a burn? O'Brien cringes. "You shouldn't get a sunburn," he says. "But if you do, apply cool compresses. This is inflammation. Although I am a little reluctant to give everyone over-the-counter painkillers these days, I think ibuprofen is great for sunburn pain and inflammation." O'Brien says old-fashioned Noxzema also lowers the skin temperature. He's a fan.