10 Survival Myths That Could Kill You

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Between the 18 million television channels looking to fill nearly 24 hours a day with content, the age of Internet experts and, obviously, the impending zombie apocalypse, there’s a deluge of information available on how to survive once we encounter the inevitable end of the world.

Or, you know, how to survive if you find yourself lost outdoors or similarly trapped without traditional access to care, sustenance, and shelter. That sounds less crazy.

In all of that information, there’s also a fair amount of misinformation – including the 10 pieces of advice that could do the opposite of save your life if you try them out in a real survival situation.

#10. The fluid in a cactus can keep you from dying of thirst.

A skilled survivalist might be able to pick the single sort-of-safe-to-drink-from-barrel cactus while suffering from dehydration, but you most likely won’t be able to. Drinking from any other kind of cactus will make you sick, leading to vomiting that will only exacerbate your problem.

#9. Play dead when you’re attacked by a bear.

I actually knew the proper way to respond to a threatening bear, and it’s not to play dead – it’s to make yourself as big and scary and loud as possible. Alternatively, you can try backing out of their space slowly. In general though, the right response depends on the type of bear and sort of attack.

Really, you’re going to want to fight for your life. Literally. Make those bears wonder just what on earth they’re dealing with, and they’ll probably decide you’re not worth the trouble.

#8. If a shark attacks you, punch it in the nose.

I’m quite sure this advice came from Chuck Norris or Jackie Chan, and like most of their moves, it’s inadvisable to try it at home. If you are that rare, poor soul attacked by a shark, the first thing you should try is putting a solid object between you and its teeth (duh). If that fails, clawing at the soft spots on its face (eyes and gills) will be more effective than trying to land a solid punch on a moving animal.

#7. Moss grows on the north side of a tree.

Moss can grow wherever it damn well pleases and is not to be trusted – certainly not to navigate you out of the wilderness.

#6. Swim parallel to the shore if you’re caught in a rip current.

This isn’t always bad advice, but it’s not complete. If the rip current runs out to sea, then swimming parallel to the shore is correct. But if it’s running at an angle, you should try swimming perpendicular. If you’re not a strong swimmer you shouldn’t attempt to swim out at all, and instead simply tread water.

#5. It’s possible to suck venom out of a snakebite.

Actually, if you’re bitten by a venomous snake that releases the toxin with its bite, it will immediately enter your bloodstream. Plus, someone putting their mouth on your open wound is a great way to pick up an infection. You’re much better off not elevating the affected limb and getting to a hospital as soon as possible. (If you’re super-daring or just have good reflexes, take a picture of the snake or kill it and bring it with you so they’re sure to dispense the correct anti-venom).

#4. A lean-to is a great shelter.

This type of shelter might help protect you from the sun if that’s a priority, but in environments where staying warm or out of the wind is more important, another type might be the better bet. There’s no universal rule when it comes to sheltering in a survival situation – it will depend largely on the environment and the materials that are readily available to build one.

#3. If you see an animal eating something, it’s safe for you to eat it.

Despite the fact that Leo did it in The Revenant, eating after wolves (or any other creature) doesn’t make a food inherently safe. For instance, birds and squirrels can digest several types of berries, seeds, and mushrooms that will make a human being violently ill – or even kill you.

#2. You need to find a food supply immediately if you’re lost in the wilderness.

Anyone who buys into this one must not watch Naked & Afraid. In case it’s the pasty butts that put you off, I’ll summarize. The body can survive with almost no food for up to 6 weeks, but will expire after 2-3 days without water. Bonus knowledge: finding a source of water can have the added bonus of locating food sources, too, since other animals and plants have the same requirement. Shelter is next on the list of importance.

#1. Rub someone’s skin or put them in a hot tub to warm them up.

If a person is suffering from frostbite, rubbing their skin can cause additional damage. Not only that, but hot water can have similar detrimental effects. The human body needs to warm back up slowly, either with blankets, hot water bottles at points like the underarms or the back or the knees and neck, or with the shared heat from another human body.

(h/t: IFL Science)