Today, Ann LaBelle admits that it was a stupid thing to do. But when she jumped off her boyfriend’s motorcycle and burned her inner leg on the tailpipe, she didn’t know how to treat the injury. “It burned a hole right through my jeans, about the size of a fifty-cent piece.” Her boyfriend’s mother suggested she clean the area and put butter on it. For the next several days, LaBelle repeated the process. “It kept getting redder and redder, and it really hurt.” Two weeks later, when the burn wasn’t healing, and she developed a 104 degree fever, LaBelle went to the hospital. There she was given antibiotics to fight the infection. But they didn’t help. About a month later, she underwent surgery to close up the wound.
LaBelle made an all-too-common mistake—she relied on an old wives’ tale. First-aid treatment has evolved, and many of our mothers’ remedies are no longer recommended. Take a look inside your first-aid kit: bandages, some gauze, painkillers, a tube of antibacterial cream, maybe iodine or hydrogen peroxide. We’re all familiar with these tried-and-true solutions.
They may be tried, but they’re not all true. “Many people still use their mother’s remedies, like putting peroxide on a wound,” says Michael VanRooyen, professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “This, and other remedies are very common, but wrong.” After years of research, experts are finding that your standard first-aid response may sometimes be the worst thing you can do in an emergency. Here’s how to update your first-aid kit.
Next: The right way to treat burns »