8 Survival Myths That Will Definitely Make Things Worse


[♪ INTRO] Let’s say your car breaks down in the middle
of the desert, or in a howling blizzard. Your phone battery is dead, and you didn’t stock up on food
and water like you maybe should’ve. How are you gonna get out of this one? If you find yourself in a survival situation,
you’re going to have certain priorities: water, not dying of exposure, not being
mauled by wild animals, and, y’know, getting back to wi-fi as soon
as possible so you can watch SciShow. For most folks, food can
actually be a lower priority. But there’s a lot of bad survival info out there. Some tips seem too good
to be true, and they are. Others are ingrained enough to be
common knowledge, except they’re wrong. So here’s a list of 8 survival tips
you definitely shouldn’t follow, and what to do instead. First up: water. What about all the snow that’s piling up
in the blizzard? That is made of water. Snow can be safe to eat, especially if it’s
freshly fallen. While it can collect contaminants as it falls,
things like soot from wood fires and coal plants, that generally won’t be enough to
hurt you. Snow that’s already on been the ground for
a while is riskier, since it might have accumulated, like, who knows what, pollutants
from the road, maybe, you know, you can insert
your own yellow snow joke here. But eating snow might be a
bad idea for a different reason: It has to melt inside your body,
and that uses your body heat. Water has a high heat capacity, because it has pretty strong bonds holding
the molecules together. So you need a lot of energy to break those
bonds to boil liquid water or melt ice. Energy your body would otherwise
be using to keep you warm. Plus, you’d have to eat a lot of
snow to get enough water, since piles of snow contain a lot of air. So to keep your body temperature from falling
too much, find a way to melt the snow first. But the worst way to do that is to like hold
it against your skin to melt it. Don’t do that, it’s still going to cool
you down. If you’re in the desert, don’t count on cactuses
as, like, secret jugs of fresh spring water. There’s a lot of water in there, yeah. But there’s also a bunch of noxious chemicals. Cactuses use an unusual type
of photosynthesis, called CAM. CAM photosynthesis uses way less water than
other kinds, so it’s handy in the desert. CAM plants gather CO2 through pores at night
and store it in the form of organic acids. Then they can close those pores during
the day to minimize water loss, using the stored carbon to get on with the
light-dependent parts of photosynthesis. For storage, they mainly use malic acid, which
isn’t so bad for you. It’s in various fruits, although too much
can irritate your mouth. But many CAM plants also make oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is toxic, because it binds to
calcium, which can mess up your body. It can also build up in your kidneys
in the form of calcium oxalate, the stuff kidney stones are made of. In addition to the acids, a lot of cactus
flesh contains alkaloids, which are a diverse family of plant chemicals that generally aren’t
nice to eat and can really affect your body. Cactus juice won’t get you high, like it
did to Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender. But it can make you sick enough
to cause puking or diarrhea, which will dehydrate you
and make matters worse. Fishhook barrel cactuses and young prickly
pear cactuses contain few enough of the unpleasant chemicals to be kind of edible when raw. They still don’t taste good,
but they’ll do in a bind. But you’d better be pretty confident in
your botany skills. Bodily fluids are also mostly water, so you
might think you can recycle them. Drinking urine might help you
survive ever so slightly longer, but it’s only safe to do for a day or so. That’s because the waste products
in your pee are waste for a reason. If you put them back in your body, they’ll build
up faster than your kidneys can eliminate them. And that can send you into a state similar
to kidney failure, with your body unable to process all of the potassium, nitrogen compounds,
and calcium you’re throwing at it. As for blood… it’s sometimes
safe to eat in small amounts. In certain places, it’s fairly common,
but that’s more for its protein and iron content
than as a source for water. In large amounts, which you’d need to stay
hydrated, blood contains more iron than your body can handle, and it becomes toxic. Your body tries to store it in
places like your heart and liver, but that can lead to organ failure and death. Plus, you’re at risk from bloodborne pathogens. So going full vampire to survive is probably
not the best idea. But let’s say you’ve found some water, and
now you need a way to get home without GPS. And maybe you’ve heard that moss always
grows on the north sides of trees. This is one of those things that’s true in
general, but not 100% reliable all of the time. So it’s not so useful for navigation. Here in the northern hemisphere, the northern
side of a tree will get the least sunlight, thanks to the Earth’s tilt. That means the northern side of the tree is
most likely to be shady, cool, and damp, all things that moss likes. Mosses are non-vascular plants,
which aren’t as good at retaining water as other types of plants. They essentially lack the plumbing
to transport water inside of them, so they need all the moisture they can get. So if some other situation is creating good
conditions on any particular side of a tree, moss can grow there just fine. It’s not necessarily pointing north,
it’s just the nice-for-moss side. You’re going to need some shelter too,
or at least a way to stay warm. And you might have seen people
in old-timey books or shows giving a swig of booze to warm
someone up, especially in a blizzard. This one almost seems intuitive, because alcohol
brings a flush of warmth to your cheeks. But that is the exact opposite of what you
want if you need to stay warm. Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it opens
up the blood vessels near the surface of your skin, probably by altering your brain’s
blood vessel controls. That increased blood flow is why you might
feel or look flushed when you’re drunk. But it also transports warmth
towards the surface of your skin, where it can conveniently diffuse away from
your body and into the colder air nearby. Thanks, thermodynamics. When your body is trying to stay warm, it
actually constricts those blood vessels to try and conserve warmth in your
internal organs and your brain, which need to stay at
37 degrees Celcius to keep ticking. Don’t undo that hard work. And if you’re cold, rubbing yourself to
stay warm seems intuitive, the friction generates a bit of warmth. But once frostbite sets in, that is a horrible
idea. On a cellular scale, frostbite means ice crystals
are starting to form in your tissues. And ice crystals are sharp. They can puncture cell membranes
and other cellular structures, not to mention freeze the water
those cells were using to live. Rubbing will jostle those sharp chunks of
ice around, and cause them to rupture nearby cells. That’s going to make things much worse. Also, even though it’s painful, it’s not
good to thaw those frostbitten toes if they’re still at risk of refreezing. More ice forming again will do more damage
and risk more permanent loss of tissue. Frostbite mostly affects the extremities. If hypothermia actually sets in, meaning the
body’s core temperature has dropped below 35 degrees, the key is careful,
slow reintroduction of warmth. Plunging a victim of hypothermia in a hot
tub could cause irregular heart rhythm or even a heart attack. The proper way to treat frostbite
and hypothermia is, like, by a doctor, but when that’s not possible, caution is best. Try to sit tight, and don’t risk doing more harm. Finally, on your way home, it’s best
if you can avoid being mauled, bitten, or stung by anything. But if you are, be careful
what advice you listen to. Like, that one myth that tells you to like,
slice open the snakebite and suck out the toxin. The effects of snakebite vary based on the
kind of snake and the venom it’s packing. Some bites may cause severe
tissue damage and internal bleeding, while others are neurotoxins, there’s a bunch! Snake venoms are fascinating! So in reality, this so-called “treatment” will
increase the risk of the wound getting infected, possibly spread the venom into the
victim’s bloodstream much faster, and not actually remove very much venom. In other words, don’t do it. An article published in the
New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 strongly discourages incision
and suction for snakebites. Instead, they recommend keeping the
wound below the level of the heart, keeping the victim warm, avoiding tourniquets
or any kind of restrictive clothing or jewelry, and getting to the hospital as soon as possible. Hospitals can administer
antivenom to neutralize the bite. Antivenom is made up of antibodies that
are carefully made to bind to the venom and stop it from having effects on your body. Since different snakes make different
kinds of venom, one of the main things is to remember as much as you can
about what the snake looked like. You don’t need to, like, catch the snake
and, like, bring it along with you though, that’s not gonna help; nobody’s gonna
like that. And some kinds of antivenom work for multiple
kinds of snakes. It depends on the exact cocktail of antibodies. So you’re best off leaving the treatment,
hey, to professionals, because I don’t think you have a venom-binding
antibody serum in your back pocket, and if you do, that should be refrigerated! And last but not least, suppose you’re
stranded on the shore instead of in a forest and got a nasty jellyfish sting. Should you just… pee on it? Besides sounding totally gross and weird,
it’s not worth it. Pee doesn’t work, and it might
even make things worse. Jellyfish tentacles contain
stinging cells called cnidocytes, which discharge tiny harpoon-like stingers
when they touch you, plus the venom. And some of that venom can poke holes in cells
or cause all kinds of biological mayhem. But not many of the cnidocytes on a stinging
tentacle fire when you first touch it. So the trick is to get it off you without
triggering the thousands of others. The myth claims that urine
will neutralize those cnidocytes, so they don’t go off and sting you. But certain chemical changes can
fire off cnidocytes as well as touch. Like, alcohol is known to trigger them. And at least one study has shown
that urine can do so as well. A 2017 study published in the journal Toxins
found that many popular sting treatments, including scraping the stung area with a credit
card or shaving cream, don’t work. Seawater can help you rinse them off, but
it won’t chemically prevent them from firing. That’s where jellyfish live, after all. Instead, they found that a good
dousing with vinegar is best, which is just the chemical acetic acid. That will actually neutralize the ones
that haven’t stung you yet, maybe by bringing the pH too low
for them to function. Then the tentacles can be carefully
plucked away by tweezers, and heating pads will help
ease the pain of a sting. Now, you may never need to use any
of these tips, I certainly hope you don’t, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there,
and emergency survival is something you don’t really want to take chances with. So a little bit of scientific rigor is maybe the
best way to know if a tip could save your life or make things much worse. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! If you want to keep learning more about
the weirdness of human bodies and the world we live in, you can go to
youtube.com/scishow to subscribe. [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “8 Survival Myths That Will Definitely Make Things Worse”

  1. #3 I DISAGREE
    for those of us who have seen the movie LIMITLESS…
    if you come across a guy who has been injecting NZT-48 into his veins you can kill the guy, drink his blood
    and the NZT-48 will do it's job and show you how to survive 😛

  2. Surely getting a cellular signal for your mobile phone is better than having to travel a longer distance to simply get a short range 802.11 WiFi signal?

  3. Some times on these things would be helpful. How long will the alcaloids in cactus take to kill you? How many days can you drink your piss before the kidney stones kick in.
    What's a litre of blood gonna do to you?
    Are these things a bad idea when you have to make it through a day or two? Or are they a bad idea only as a lifestyle choice?

  4. This human dildo has no information. He’s simply a sycophant that will do anything to be a known name (ie famous). He simply tells you as the viewer what not to do, only to be too unintelligent to tell you what you can do. I suggest you take your phone and break it over your face, if you think this idiot is interesting in any way.

  5. The value of the information in these 11 minutes totally redeemed the two hours of Russian dash cam crashes I just watched.

  6. Would you die if you injected yourself with loads of anti venom? being that anti venom has venom in it???

  7. I think you need to devote an entire video to the stupidity of single ply toilet paper (especially for employers where extra time wasted wiping your butt is money lost)!

  8. This is typical, a dude that never even goes outside talking about survival myths because he read it somewhere

  9. Some things on YouTube seem to sap intelligence from the viewers. This is so informative I feel slightly more intelligent having watched it. 😁

  10. So, here's a myth that seems to abound enough to have made it a couple documentaries I've seen about the Titanic sinking. Goes something like this:
    "There was some sort of really rich guy, absolutely shoot the moon wastedbon Cognac and Brandy that when he went into the water for a couple/few hours his blood just wouldn't freeze and he was rescued when the ship miles away that saw the distress signal arrived." Now, this obviously takes a lot of drinking practice; but in the realm of theoretical science… oa there a point where this can really occur after a certain threshold? Purely curiosity, I have no intention of trying this at home… Or a cruise on it's maiden voyage.

  11. Number 5 had a probably….as long as it's not a definitely I'll use my vodka cape to keep me warm when there's no taxis to keep me and my kebab safe in England…. 😀 Top video mate!

  12. Drinking alcohol to stay warm is a good idea, but only under very, VERY specific circumstances.

    Are you in a shelter?
    Do you have a source of reliable heat?
    Do you have food?
    Do you have bedding of any kind?

    Is there someone else with you?

    If the answer to all of these is Yes, then you can have some alcohol.

    It will NOT help you survive, but it WILL help you relax and feel more comfortable when you lay down to sleep. This will aid in letting you get more restful sleep in your shelter, outside of the elements, and be better prepared to set out from the shelter when you wake up. Just don't get drunk; a swig will do to help take the tension out for a nap.

  13. Easy to knock the myth but you're not offering any practical solutions – particularly #7, "go to a hospital" – when you're on your own in a desert 😛

  14. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE!!
    Stop writing what you're saying!!
    I can hear you, and can turn on cc if I were deaf!!!

  15. So question about the alcohol. If you have a thermal blanket and or a sleeping bag that encases your body would it be an ok thing to do? Would make for an interesting experiment =)

  16. So how would other common acids work with cnidocytes, be they citric or malic as you refered to before?

    And what about oil? It's an odd question, but I'm just wondering.

  17. Scraping jellyfish stings doesn't work??? Man you really say things completely without any knowledge, don't you? You cite like 1 study to support your claim. I wouldn't be surprised if I found another one of your videos where you slam some scammer for citing the one study that supports their delusion…

    Are you a diver? Have you actually been stung by jellyfish and scraped the affected skin? Advice to all people out there: the ONLY thing that works if you've been stung by a jellyfish IS TO SCRAPE THE AFFECTED AREA.

    Jeez man, last video I watch from you.

  18. aslo being drunk disturbs yer sense for temperature.
    so people who drink outside risk freezing to death because they dont feel cold

  19. Good to see someone point out the urine thing. There's some people out there who drink the stuff because they think it's somehow healthy and it's just the most disgusting thing. There's a good reason the stuff comes out at the end of your torso that is opposite to the mouth. Best case it's just surplus minerals that your body doesn't need, worst case it's actually toxines that your kidneys and liver went through a lot of effort to get rid off.

  20. A snake bite may be the only kind of accident where stopping and taking a photo (of the snake) before administering first aid is a good idea. Unless you have the antivenom with you there's not so much that you can do and being able to clearly indentify the snake that bit can help save lifes.

  21. The ruin on jelly fish burns seems like it works. Are you say the videos I’ve seen of people doing it is wrong ? They report that it works.

  22. yes, yes, that's all well and good, but without citations many of these figures are …" blah blah blah.

    Thanks. that was a fun read

  23. Might as well convert humans to being cold blooded. And we wear clothing that warms us up to 37°C so that we can be more active.

  24. 4:09… blood has more iron than body can handle and becomes toxic…..
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUaz9fPh7rY
    9:11…. peeing on jelly fish stings doesn't work…..
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWBnoLFYdcU
    I think this guy is full of it……

  25. once saw a nice myth busters episode on the effect of alcohol when you're getting really cold. Indeed your core temperature goes down and the temperature of e.g. fingers goes up… something you DO want want they are about to freeze off 😉

  26. dont take sefies with a cone snail. dont eat yellow snow. dont walk into the dark room where the fleeting shadow just went.

  27. Man, every Canadian knows that eating snow for water is a death sentence. You melt it in a pot in your tent with body heat or over a fire first…

  28. The snake bite one was the only one I didn't know about. It's kind of messed up that this one is not true considering they actually make snake bite kits that include basically a cutting tool and a suction cup.

  29. I live in the Gulf Coast, and luckily already knew most of this. First aid for snakes and jellyfish for instance, and growing up in the frozen north, all about snow, frostbite and hypothermia too. It was very nice to get or be reminded of the gritty details of why we who live there are taught these things by rote. Like, I knew cactus water isnt that great for you, and it's usually gonna taste bad, but the chemistry of why that is, was quite fascinating.

  30. 1. Don’t eat snow until after after peeing on it to melt it.
    2. Use cactus juice on your jelly fish sting to neutralize the pain
    3. Use refrigerated snake antivenin on snake BEFORE it bites you

  31. The secrets of drinking your urine are starting early: when you still have enough water, it helps that water to last slightly longer, and you get actual water at the same time.
    The other one is drinking only part of your urine: you cant put it all back in your body, so you have to waste part of it. Still, you can reuse some of that water.

  32. Yeah, you just try rubbing frostbitten bodyparts? First, you cant feel them. You dont feel the cold anymore. If you do feel something, its going to hurt. A lot.
    Pain is your bodys way of telling something is wrong. If it hurts, dont do it.

  33. When the body is real cold, the most important survival mechanism of the body is to try to keep the warmth where it is needed: heart, and lungs, followed by brain and internal organs. The flow of blood to extremities is restricted by vasoconstriction, thus preventing heat loss from the core.
    Body extremities can easily survive temperatures that are lethal at heart lungs and brain, so you want to avoid getting the core cold.
    Hot bath does exactly this, vasodilating your bloodvessels, which allows the cold blood to enter your heart. This is why heating has to be done slow, and its better to done from inside out. In serious cases, blankets and rest are the best first aid, in not life threatening cases warm drink helps to warm from inside out. This should be avoided when the body is energy starved, as the digestion itself requires lots of energy, and shuts down to save energy in emergensies and restarting that takes more energy than it gives for some while.
    Sugar and water can be absorbed through the mouth in small quantities. Chocolate works great and comfort improves the mood, might even help with shock which also threatens the body temperature.

  34. There are also some survival myths that work the other way around. Every time you hear someone talking about picking wild mushrooms everyone's first reaction is to scream that mushroom picking should be left to experts. This is true for the most part but there are plenty of fungi with no poisonous lookalikes you can pick and eat safely with a little knowledge.

    The universal edibility test is also quite common (Touch the plant part in question to your skin for a while, then your lips, etc.) However the calories you get from plants is NOT worth the risk of death or serious illness when you consider the fact that most people are rescued before finding a food supply is all that critical. Just learn a couple edible plants in your area before you go in the woods and stick to them.

  35. Moss grows on the North side of trees, until it doesn't? You can easily know where any direction is by watching where the sun rises or sets, if you're not lost long enough to not see that; well you're not very lost.

  36. The only good jellyfish is a dead jellyfish. I knew that urine didn't work on stings, but not vinegar. Neither did my parents when they took me to the beach.

  37. One thing about venomous snake bites…
    If bitten, get to the hospital, but DON"T EXERT yourself. Rooster Cogburn, (Either Bridges or Wayne), was making things worse with that wild ride bouncing the poor girl around for several hours. She would have been dead after the first hour or so, from a bite from a Timber rattler that size, if she was shaken up that badly.
    If you are bitten in these modern times, STAY COOL, but get to the hospital quickly, but QUIETLY…
    Don't forget a properly maintained tourniquet, either.

  38. if you get bitten by a snake then put a burning cinder on the bite, just keep this as a last resort if no other solution is present

  39. I got a snakebite field treatment kit that had some loose cord you tie loosely around the limb to constrict lymph vessels. I guess the snakes in my area have venom that spreads through the lymph system.

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