Survival Myths That Could Get You Killed

survival myths

With countless TV shows and movies themed around survival, most people think they could utilize this information should they get stuck in such a predicament. But, If you think binge-watching these shows will turn you into a survival expert, think again, because you might end up in an even worse situation following their tips. Here are the top ten survival myths that do more harm than good.

10. Suck out snake bite venom

This survival tip has been played out in several movies and TV shows, as doing this act presumably removes venom from the victim who was bound for an untimely death due to the snake’s venomous bite. In reality, however, this will only serve to worsen the victim’s condition.

Studies show that trying to cut and suck out venom won’t help at all. In fact, it will only help damage tissue around the bite and hence, help the venom spread faster. It’s an act of futility that delays proper treatment as it’s just not possible for anyone to suck hard or fast enough to remove any of it before it starts spreading around the body.


Do not try to halt the spread of the venom by applying a tourniquet either. It’s also pointless and won’t stop the venom. In fact, it may just provoke unnecessary damage to your limb.

© Tacmed Australia

Instead of emulating this supposedly “life-saving” act, medical experts recommend first trying to remember the snake’s appearance so that medical experts can identify the snake for its anti-venom. Then, calm down and place the wound below your heart; this will slow down the spread of the venom. If someone is there with you, have them follow out all the next steps so you can try to relax, possibly laying down to slow your heart rate and prevent the venom spreading.

Do not wash the wound as the leftover venom can help in identifying the snake that bit you, so doctors can use the correct anti-venom to heal you.


Next, cover the wound with loose bandages or clothing to keep it from getting infected by bacteria.

Finally, Call the emergency services or if you don’t have access to a phone, walk at a leisurely pace towards the nearest hospital.

Instead of trying to remedy the injury yourself, it’s best to let medical experts handle this. You might end up risking your life trying to follow such an outdated technique to treat a snake bite. The truth is that most snake bites, even from the most dangerous snakes, aren’t always fatal. Sea snakes for example, have some of the most potent venoms in the world, yet about 80% of reported bites from end up being ‘dry’ – meaning that no venom ends up being injected.

© Wikimedia Commons/Payman sazesh

Just don’t be fooled by the initial pain or the lack of it. Some bites, such as from copperheads, as painful from the start, whereas ones from coral snakes, take several hours to appear.

9. Play dead to avoid bear attacks.

This is perhaps the most well-known “survival tip” of them all — playing dead in order to avoid getting mauled by a bear.

Surprisingly, it does work, but only for brown grizzly bears, since if you run the bear will think you’re prey and continue chasing you. And they will catch you because they can run at sustained speeds faster than Olympic sprinters. Try to act dead for other bear species though, like the black bear, and you’re likely to end up dead for real.

Survival experts recommend packing bear pepper spray whenever you’re traveling to areas where bears are known to frequent. Should you encounter one, try to make yourself smaller and retreat very slowly, not making any noises that may serve to provoke them. If contact is inevitable, use the bear pepper spray directly in their face.


Not only does it deter them from attacking you, but they’re also attracted to the residue left by the pepper spray, allowing you to escape while it’s distracted.

If you don’t have pepper spray with you, and a black bear decides to attack, fight back; black bears often bluff when attacking, and would rather go for easy food than someone who can fight back, so stand your ground and fight back.

Use anything and everything as a weapon- rocks, sticks, fists, and your teeth. Aim your blows on the bear’s face- particularly the eyes and snout. Do not try to climb a tree to escape, since they’re excellent climbers.

© Pixabay/ArtTower

Black bears are usually non-aggressive. If you ever encounter one in the wild, try to avoid contact whenever possible, because no amount of playing dead will save you should they deem you as a threat.

8. It is important to find a food supply immediately.

Food is essential if you want to survive in the wild outdoors. Without food, you’d run out of energy and eventually starve to death, so it’s quite logical to find a food source first, right?

© Needpix/monika1607

Not really, because an average person can live for weeks without eating food. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi, at age 74, was able to survive for 21 days without any food, solely surviving by sipping water every now and then.

Instead of finding food, focus on finding potable water. Dehydration will set in faster compared to hunger and this will greatly affect your chances of survival out in the wild.

Once you have found a source of drinkable water, locating or building a shelter is your next objective.

Food should always be your last priority. Without water or shelter, your chances of survival dwindles every passing minute, so prioritize these two needs over food.

7. Eating snow can rehydrate you.

Snow is literally frozen water, and as said earlier, water is needed in order to replenish your lost fluids when you’re trapped in the wild. Logically, snow should have the same rehydrating effects as water, right?

Technically, yes, but if you melt it first. Eating it directly, however, will not only fail to hydrate you, but also decrease your body’s internal temperature, which can lead to hypothermia in severe cases.


Not only that, snow on the ground can collect several microorganisms and bacteria that can be very harmful for your body.

If you are in dire need of water, try to locate a water source first. If you can’t find any, find snow that is clearly white and free from any impurities and then melt it until you are able to drink it.

© Cheap Earth and Dirt

Remember, you should not consume snow directly. They are not like those frozen treats you get from supermarkets, after all.

6. Rubbing frostbitten skin will warm it up.

Facing extremely cold environments without proper equipment significantly increases the risk of frostbite. Most people believe that rubbing frostbitten skin will help warm it up. In truth, this only makes the problem worse, as the friction generated from rubbing the skin will severely damage the afflicted tissues.

Should you get frostbitten, the first thing you should do is to seek shelter from the cold environment. Cover yourself up with warm clothing or a blanket if available and drink warm liquids to restore your internal body temperature and prevent the possible onset of hypothermia.


Do not attempt to warm the frostbitten area with a fireplace as this might cause burns.

If numbness and pain persists, have someone seek help immediately, as severe frostbite can result to amputation of the frostbitten part if left untreated.

5. Moss grows on the north side of trees.

Lost in the woods without a compass? Not a problem, just look where the moss grows on trees as it always grows on the north according to one survival tip. Unfortunately, following this tip will make you more lost than a blind man in a forest.

The belief behind this survival tip is that moss grows commonly on the north side due to it getting less sunlight as the sun moves from east to west. Perfect conditions for moss, you would have thought.

© Needpix/flockine

However, this is not a very useful tip because in the woods trees can be shaded from any direction. Therefore, moss will grow anywhere on a tree as long as sunlight cannot reach it. What’s important is that it must be cool and damp, as these environments create the perfect condition for moss to grow on.

If you’re planning to take a trip and don’t plan on getting lost anytime, it’s best to take the advice of real survival experts — invest on a compass.

4. Prioritise having a roof on your shelter.

If you’ve seen many TV shows about surviving in the wild, you’ll see that they build shelters with roofs over their head, prioritizing it over anything else. After all, surviving in the wild means to be ready to brave the elements, whether it be the scorching sun or the cold rain, and a roof over your head will help you in doing just that, right?

© Ucharted Supply Co

Technically, yes. However, most of these shows often miss out on the most important detail when building a shelter — a bed.

You may ask, why would you need one? You could always lay down on the ground, right? Yes, you can, but you risk freezing yourself to death if you do that, especially in a wet condition. You see, the ground can get really cold especially during the night time. So, it’s important to have something that will help insulate your body during those cold nights. Sure, having a roof is important, but trees can provide you with enough shade and protection.

© Flickr/Kevin Cortopassi

What you should do, is build a raised insulated bed out of sticks, leaves, and grass. First, lay down two thick logs out parallel to each other at a distance relative to your height. Add a third log into the middle to give it more structural integrity. Next, locate some long, thick sticks and place them on top of the platform. Now that the platform is complete, it needs insulating properly. You could top it with grass or leaves, but ideally, try to shave branches off evergreen trees and place them.

After that’s complete, you can then go ahead and construct an overhead shelter. It should have the form of an A-frame or lean-to, but to keep you warm, the insulated bed should be a priority.

3. Punch a shark to stop an attack

Shark attacks rarely happen. In fact, you’re more likely to die from a lightning strike compared to getting attacked by a shark. But suppose you end up in such a predicament, what would you do? One survival tip suggests that you punch a shark to deter them from attacking you. Simple, right? Sure, if you can even land a punch successfully, that is. Test it out yourself in a swimming pool and see how ineffective this strategy is.

The best way to avoid shark attacks is to swim away from them calmly because there’s a chance that they haven’t noticed you yet.

If an encounter is imminent, poke the shark’s eye using your fingers. If that won’t dissuade them from attacking you, hit the gills with any blunt object.

Hit it repeatedly until it decides to let you go. Remember to keep your eyes on the shark while swimming away to safety.

2. Locate a water source immediately in a desert.

Suppose you find yourself stuck on a desert with a dwindling water supply, the first and foremost course of action to take is to locate a water source to prevent dehydration, correct?

© Needpix/StockSnap

Not at all, because you’d end up sweating a lot, losing vital body fluids in the process. What you should do is to sit in the shade and wait for the night to arrive, when the desert is at its coolest. If you’re feeling thirsty, drink all your water instead of rationing it.

People who have died from dehydration have been found to have water in their bottles after rationing. So, keep a clear head. Keeping yourself hydrated is a must to survive in the wild. Once nighttime arrives, you’re free to roam around and look for a source of drinkable water.

© PX Fuel

Another related desert survival myth is that you can drink water stored inside a cactus. Drinking it, however, will do more harm than good. Drinking cactus water will often result in a number of problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes paralysis as it contains highly toxic alkaloids harmful to humans.

Instead of drinking cactus water, look for places where vegetation grows, as this signifies underground water. Look at canyons and mountain bases as well, as low terrains often contain water sources.

Water may be scarce in the desert, but if you know where to look for it, you may be able to survive for days.

1. Boiling water will make any water supply clean.

So you found a water source, but you’re not sure whether it’s clean enough to drink. The solution? Boil the water and it will be completely safe to drink! Or so the so-called experts claim. Truth is, simply boiling the water won’t make any water safe to drink. Sure, it will kill bacteria and microorganisms that may harm your body, but no matter how long you boil water, it will not remove harmful sediments present on the water.

Before boiling water, filter it first using a clean, white cloth. Pour the water through the cloth and into a container. The cloth will serve as a makeshift filter, removing sediments and other visible impurities from the water.


Once you filter the water completely, boil the water to kill off the bacteria. Doing this additional step will allow you to have potable water without the risk of contracting water-borne diseases.

Surviving the wild is no easy feat, but if you arm yourself with the right knowledge, you can get through whatever ordeals you may face in the wild by avoiding these survival myths. Do you have other survival tips you can share? Let me know by leaving a comment down below.

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