Common Survival Myths – Part 1
You’ve probably heard the myth about Twinkies having preservative properties that make them last for decades. No one knows for sure where this legend began, but it probably has to do with the fact that even old Twinkies seem fresh and spongy. In reality, Twinkies have a shelf life of about one month.
Another reason myths like this abound is because of Hollywood. Many survival myths either begin with or are perpetuated by unrealistic movies. They make for great entertainment, but they also give people bad ideas. Here are some other common survival myths.
If a bear approaches you, just play dead. If it’s a grizzly bear, this might work. The bear will see you’re not a threat and move on. But if it’s a black bear, it will be interested in eating you whether you’re moving or not. Get some distance or fight back if you have to.
If a shark attacks you, punch it in the nose. Everyone has heard this myth, but has anyone ever actually done it? Not to my knowledge. First, you’d need a very fast and accurate punch to actually hit a shark’s nose. And even if you do, your hand will be hurt more than its nose. You’re better off attacking it’s eyes and gills with your fingers.
If you’re bitten by a snake, suck out the venom. The last thing you need after a snake bite is to spread the venom faster by getting some of it in your mouth. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to suck fast enough to stop the venom from spreading. The best thing you can do is call 911, clean the wound, keep it below heart level, and sit still until someone arrives with antivenom.
If you’re impaled by a knife or other object, pull it out. This is another survival myth that comes from Hollywood. You see heroes doing this in movies, but it’s a bad idea. Pulling out the object will only make you bleed faster. It’s better to dress the wounded area to keep the object stable until a professional can properly remove it.
Apply a tourniquet if you’re bleeding. Tourniquets are actually very dangerous as they can damage blood vessels, kill tissue and possibly make amputation necessary. A tourniquet should only be used as a last resort for someone who would otherwise quickly bleed to death.
In there’s an earthquake, stand in a doorway. This used to be true several decades ago, but in most modern buildings the door frame is set in place after the main structure is complete, making it one of the weakest spots. Instead, get under a desk or a table.
After fleeing the city, you can just live off the land. Those who watch shows like Man vs. Wild like to think they could survive in the wilderness indefinitely so long as they lived near a source of fresh water. Although it might be possible, most people have no idea how difficult it would be. You would have to hunt from sunup to sundown and sometimes into the night just to find enough food so you’d have the energy to do it again the next day. The majority of humans would slowly starve to death. Only a good-sized group of experienced farmers, hunters and survivalists would make it.
Plants are a good source of food in a survival situation. If you want to live, you’re better off avoiding plants altogether. Though there are many edible plants out there, you don’t want to take a chance on eating plants unless you’re very experienced with wild edibles and familiar with the Universal Edibility Test. You’re safer sticking to mammals, freshwater fish, birds, and six-legged insects. Most plants will make you sick or possibly kill you. And the ones that are safe to eat don’t provide many calories or nutrients, anyway.
If you’re lost in the woods, look for moss on trees as it only grows on the north side. I remember seeing this on a TV show when I was a kid. It’s not true. Although moss does grow better on the north side of trees, it can grow on any side if the tree is shaded or near water. Following this myth could send you in the wrong direction and get you even more lost.
You should stock up on matches. Sure, I have some strike-anywhere matches on hand, but I have a helluva lot of Bic lighters. I’m not sure why so many survivalists emphasize matches. For the amount of space taken and number of fires you can make, lighters are far smaller and cheaper compared to matches. If you’re worried about the lighters getting wet, buy a magnesium fire starter.
If it’s very cold, move to higher ground. The idea here is that since heat rises and cold settles in valleys and lower areas, you should move to higher ground where it might be several degrees warmer. While that is technically true, it doesn’t account for the wind chill you get from higher areas. Plus, heat from a fire will get carried away faster the higher you are. If it’s cold, stay low.