SCDF debunks four old wives’ tales about first aid

‘The Myths of Home Remedy’ series presents comical first aid skits and basic tips for medical emergencies.

Sarah Chan
Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 25 September 2020, 9:13 PM

Growing up, you might have heard of old wives tales claiming instantaneous cures and effective home remedies for any situation.

Usually passed down through hearsay and incorporated with street science, some may sound convincingly logical, while others are often too exaggerated to be real.

But not all tales are as effective as they seem and the unfounded claims of some run the risk of worsening an injury instead.

Perhaps the professionals would know best.

In an unexpectedly humorous approach to first aid education, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) debunks old wives’ tales through its latest The Myths of Home Remedy series on Facebook which has since drawn many positive reactions from the public.

Myth 1: Insert a spoon into the mouth during a fit 

When someone is experiencing a fit, the old wives’ tale would suggest inserting a spoon into their mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue.

Scientifically speaking, swallowing your tongue is impossible as it is still held in place by tissues in your mouth and a spoon will only increase the risk of injuries when biting onto an object.

What the SCDF says: Forcing an object into the mouth of someone experiencing a fit is dangerous. Rather, it is more important to provide soft support beneath the person’s head and avoid restraining their movements.

Myth 2: Treat burns with condiments and toothpaste 

It sounds realistic to counter hot with cold… right?

Wrong. While the cooling sensation of ice water or the slather of minty toothpaste may seem attractive to treat a burn, these are common misconceptions that will only cause further damage to the skin tissues instead.

What the SCDF says: Place the burn under cool running water for 10 minutes and seek medical treatment if needed.

Myth 3: Use a needle to prick the fingers of a stroke patient 

The old wives’ tale believes that pricking the fingers of a stroke patient can relieve blood pressure and ease its symptoms.

But apart from creating a bloodied mess and delaying medical treatment, these efforts are actually futile when treating a stroke.

What the SCDF says: Recognising the signs of a stroke is critical in delivering early care. Keep calm, act fast and call an emergency ambulance immediately.

Myth 4: Use vinegar and rice to clear a fish bone stuck in the throat 

In Singapore, swallowed fish bones are one of the most common Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) emergencies.

In these uncomfortable situations, you might have heard of eating rice to flush the bone down or drink vinegar to dissolve the fish bone.

However, these methods are untrue and dangerous as the bone may only be embedded deeper into the throat region, causing more injuries.

What the SCDF says: Dislodge the fishbone by coughing it out and seek medical treatment if unsuccessful.

Although these are simple tips, they are invaluable in first aid as every second matters when helping someone in need.

Click here to follow SCDF for more resources.

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