Old wives tales or legends circulate periodically as they always have done. Some bring words of wisdom or practical ideas that are helpful, but others contain myths that could have dire consequences by getting you in to trouble or, in the worst case, prove to be fatal. Be warned about these survival myths.
1. You can suck out the venom if a snake bites you
Putting venom in your mouth is a faster way to spread the venom throughout your body. Plus, putting your mouth on it is not going to help keep the wound clean. Instead, you should call 911 if you are bitten by a potentially poisonous snake, make sure you clean the wound with water and soap if possible, cover it up, and keep it low, beneath your heart level.
2. Play dead if you see a bear
This actually depends on the situation as well as the type of bear. Black bears will come after you regardless of whether you are on the ground or staring at them. A better plan is to make yourself look bigger and more intimidating by making loud noises and waving your arms. Most bears will think you are not worth the trouble at that point and leave you alone. Do not run or they could think you are giving them a game of chase.
3. Pull out a snick or knife if you get stabbed
If you find yourself impaled by a stick or any other object, the worst thing you can do is to yank it out. The stick could have hit an artery and pulling it out could be fatal. If it did not hit an artery, pulling it out will still make you bleed more than if you leave it in and go get help.
4. Moss only grows on the north side
In the event that you are lost in the woods, you are going to want to try to figure out where you are going. But looking at the side of the tree where the moss grows is not going to tell you where north is. It is true that moss often grows better on the north side, but moss can grow anywhere there is darkness and shade. It is better to look to the sun and stars for guidance and not rely on where plants are growing.
5. You can drink from a cactus in the desert
This myth is completely unfounded. A cactus does not have much, if any, water inside of it and will not help keep you hydrated. The water you do get from a cactus will not taste good either and carries a high risk of making you sick, which is the last thing you need if you are in a desert without water. You can locate water in a desert by walking downhill instead of uphill, looking for any potential drain offs that may lead you to an actual water source.
6. Eat snow to stay hydrated
Sure, snow is water and you would think it is a good way to get water. But snow means you are in the cold, so eating snow is going to drop your body temperature and put you at risk of hypothermia. Instead, you should melt the snow and try to get it to a regular drinking temperature before you consume it. Boiling it and letting it cool would be ideal, ensuring that any harmful bacteria is boiled off.
7. Hard alcohol will keep you warm in the cold
Alcohol is tricky in survival situations. It will make you feel warmer because it naturally expands your blood vessels, making you feel like you are warm as your blood volume expands. But with the expanded blood vessels, your body actually loses heat quicker and you could wind up in worse shape in the end. If it is extremely cold and you continually drink alcohol to stay warm, you may find yourself in a hypothermic state quickly.
8. Tie a tourniquet if you are cut and bleeding
Tourniquets are actually a really great way to lose an arm or leg. Unless you are completely bleeding out and on the verge of death, never use a tourniquet to treat bleeding. Constricting the blood flow will harm the blood vessels, destroy the tissue, and cut off blood to the limb, which can make you a prime candidate for amputation. You may think that losing a limb will not kill you, but it will certainly affect your life.
9. Build a fire in a cave to stay warm
This has been shown endlessly on television and movies, but building a fire in a cave is not a good idea. To begin with, depending on how deep in the cave you are, a fire could eat away your oxygen, slowly and silently killing you. Then there is the risk of the heat expanding the rocks of the cave, causing them to crack, and burying you inside. It is just a bad idea, despite how many times you have seen it on television.
10. You should rub your skin when you are getting frostbite
Rubbing your skin if you are starting to get frostbite is a bad idea. Frostbite is dangerous and painful but rubbing the skin that is affected will just increase the damage that is already happening. The skin forms crystals in it when frostbite sets in so rubbing the crystals will damage the tissue further and limit the chance of regaining function. It is also a very bad idea to put someone suffering from frostbite in a hot environment like a hot shower or hot tub. Putting high heat on the damaged areas will just further the damage and actually put the victim at a risk of going into shock or having a heart attack. Warm water bottles or layers are best until you can find proper medical attention.
We all naturally will do what we can in a survival situation, but the best thing you can do is limit the risk of death or extreme injury.
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