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4 First Aid Skills That Could Help You Save a Life

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Embarrassing admission: I think I'd be amazing in an emergency. In fact, I probably spend too much time picturing how I'd act if shit were going down. During visits to the bank, I envision how I'd expertly take out any robbers who tried to start something with the teller. When I'm driving, I imagine how I'd use my stellar first aid skills to save the day if the cars in front of me were to collide and someone needed assistance. Morbid, I know, but I don't think I'm alone. (Right?)

The truth is, if I really were confronted with an emergency, my reaction would be more Dion accidentally getting on the freeway than anything approaching confidence. And as I recently found out after a discussion with paramedic Jonathan Epstein, the senior director of Science and Content Development at the American Red Cross, even my most basic first aid skills are seriously lacking.

It's not all my fault! The American Red Cross recently revamped their first aid guidelines, meaning some of the advice we've been hearing our whole lives is no longer true. In other cases, that advice was never true, but we kept hearing it anyway. So now we're setting the record straight—with Epstein's help.

If You're Dangerously Dehydrated...
The answer is obvious, right? Chug water. Not so, says Epstein. "The Red Cross made a new guideline this year about exertional dehydration, which occurs after draining physical activities like a marathon," says Epstein. (You may not even know you need more fluids. Check out these sneaky Signs of Dehydration.) The best way to rehydrate is to sip a carbohydrate- and electrolyte-based sports drink. But if you don't have any on hand, you should reach for coconut water or milk, he says. Only if you're out of both of those should you settle for plain water, says Epstein. "It has no electrolytes and no sugar, so it's not as effective at rehydrating you." (Psst... We bet you didn't know these Surprising Facts About Coconut Water.)

To stop a Nosebleed...
There are two things you may be doing wrong during nosebleeds: (1) tilting your head back and (2) pinching the upper part or middle part of your nose. Here's what you should be doing instead: (1) tilting your head slightly forward and (2) pinching over the fleshy part of your nose—basically pinching your nostrils shut. Tilting your head back allows blood to run down your throat and into your stomach, which can cause nausea, and pinching too high up on your nose does pretty much nothing, explains Epstein.

To Treat a Bruise...
Icing a bruise or sprained ankle can actually do more harm than good, says Epstein. "Ice can cause frostbite and destruction of tissue, so we advice never using direct ice for injuries," he notes. Instead, fill a bag with ice water, and put a thin cloth between the injured area and the bag. Or apply a cold compress instead.

To Perform the Heimlich...
We've all seen the signs in restaurants showing how to grab someone around the midsection and thrust to dislodge a stray bite of food. But that's actually only one step of a three-step process. "If someone is awake and choking—they're unable to cough or speak—the first thing you should try is back blows," says Epstein. This isn't just slapping the person on the back: Lean her forward and give her five back blows with the heel of your hand. If she continues to choke, that's when you move on to abdominal thrusts. (The Red Cross site has more information on how to perform to Heimlich.)


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