Just about everyone knows that you should never text and drive, and that you should stop, drop, and roll if you catch on fire.
But life can also throw situations at us that we don’t have a quick, handy response for.
Commenters in a recent Quora thread about life-saving facts offered their best tips, which are easy to remember and could have a huge effect if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.
You might want to save these for later.
Your brain can’t handle walking and using your phone at the same time — so look up.
- Flickr / Robert Couse-Baker
Murali Krishnan says walking and using your phone both demand large amounts of cognitive effort.
As a result, you can’t fully focus on both at the same time in the same way you can with walking and gum-chewing, for instance. You could suffer “inattention blindness,” where you may see an object but not process that it’s a car speeding toward you, Krishnan says.
Eliminate your car’s blind spots by adjusting your mirrors properly.
- Reuters/Olivia Harris
Blind spots aren’t inevitable in all vehicles, says Kristen Rush.
By adjusting your mirrors so that you barely see the edges of your own car, you can effectively eliminate the blind spots on the sides of the vehicle, she says. The rear-view mirror should be able to locate any car behind yours. It’s worth the few seconds it takes to adjust these when you get in the driver’s seat.
Heat transfers faster through liquid than gas, so keep warm by staying dry.
There’s a connection between being wet and getting cold, says engineer Ian Lavoie.
To ensure your body temperature doesn’t fall too quickly in cold environments, invest in clothes made of wool instead of cotton – they’ll absorb more moisture so that dampness doesn’t linger on your skin. And, of course, do your best to stay dry.
Don’t eat snow for hydration unless you absolutely have to.
- Brian Cavan/Flickr
Lavoie also says your body uses a great deal of energy to convert matter from one state to another.
That’s why he says you should eat snow as a substitute for water only as a last resort. In gaining that small amount of hydration, you’ll give up precious body heat.
If your plane makes a water landing, resist the urge to inflate your life jacket immediately.
- Flickr / Barbara Eckstein
Alvin Yip warns against the impulse to inflate your life jacket immediately if a plane is making an emergency landing on water. The buoyancy of the jacket could make it harder for you to run inside the cabin if water rushes in, Yip says.
So swim to an exit, then inflate your jacket to stay afloat.
If you’re lost, walking downhill raises your chances of finding help.
- REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler
People often build societies around nearby water sources, and since water flows downhill, you’ll increase your chances of finding help if you’re able to walk downhill, Ernest Adams says.
Adams uses the example of Juliane Koepcke, a plane crash survivor who floated down a river for nine days in 1971 before finding shelter. Several hours later, she was rescued.
You can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.
- Wikimedia Commons
Few people realize that they don’t need someone else to dislodge a piece of food from their throat.
Naman Mitruka explains how to perform the Heimlich on yourself:
1. “Form a fist with your stronger hand below your rib cage and just above the navel. Place your other palm over the fist to push more firmly.”
2. “Drive your fist in and up in the diaphragm area (the top of your stomach) forcefully and repeat several times till the object stuck in your throat is dislodged.”
Keep maximum-strength antihistamines in your wallet or bag when you go somewhere new.
- Scott Olson / Getty Images
You never know when you’ll encounter something that you didn’t know you’re allergic to, especially when camping or hiking, according to Ryan Borek.
Chewing aspirin during a heart attack can delay blood clots.
- Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Binitha George Mathai correctly points out that chewing one full-strength aspirin tablet when you feel symptoms of a heart attack can delay or prevent potentially fatal blood clots.
In one study of the theory, participants who ate a 325-milligram aspirin on an empty stomach saw 50% slower platelet response in five than people who didn’t chew the aspirin. For people who swallowed the tablet whole, it took 12 minutes to achieve that effect.
The limits of the human body tend to follow a “rule of three.”
Survivalists have a shorthand for knowing their limits, Ruchin Agarwal says.
People can generally go three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in extreme weather environments, three days without water, and three weeks without food, Agarwal says.
If cooking oil catches fire, turn off the burner and cover the pot.
- State Farm/Flickr
Agarwal also says people should never use water to put out grease fires. The water molecules sink to the bottom of the hot pan, evaporate instantly, and shoot the flames even higher.
Instead, you can put an oil fire out by cutting the heat and taking away the oxygen.
If you get stabbed or impaled by a sharp object, leave it be.
Pulling out an object that has been lodged in your body will increase the rate of blood loss, Thomas Mei says. Instead, try to cover the wound and do anything you can to stop the bleeding until you find a medical professional.
Most airplane crashes happen within three minutes after takeoff or eight minutes before landing.
- Adnan Abidi/Reuters
You can use that time to stay alert and locate exits rather than getting lost in a podcast or movie.
Most deaths in house fires are caused by smoke inhalation, not burns.
If you get hurt in a public place, single out one person for help to avoid the bystander effect.
- Getty Images
Sharma also explains the well-studied psychological phenomenon that says crowds of people fail to help somebody because everyone thinks someone else will intervene.
If you’re not too hurt to call out for help, pick one person and direct your pleas to them. You’ll be more likely to get the aid you need.
A bright flashlight could be a good weapon against an attacker.
- Markus Tacker/Flickr
An extremely bright flashlight could ward off a mugger just as effectively as mace or a weapon, Shah says.
“If you have someone approaching you that seems aggressive, in the gravest extreme, a blast of 300+ lumen to the eyes (especially at night) will give you the opportunity to get out,” he quotes in his answer. “And suppose you misread the situation – no one is really harmed, and you can’t get in trouble for it.”
Super glue can temporarily seal a wound during an emergency.
- Wikimedia Commons
If you don’t have a first aid kit to seal an open wound, super glue can act as a temporary substitute for stitches, says Janis Butevics.
It might irritate the skin, but the main chemical found in most super glues – cyanoacrylate – will stop minor bleeding almost instantly.
If you get lost on a hike, try to find a fence or stream.
- Thomson Reuters
“The stream always flows downhill and invariably will reach a larger tributary or a body of water,” says Jon Mixon. And “the fence will almost always lead to a road or a structure.”
You can use condoms as makeshift water storage.
- Adam Jones/Flickr
Condoms are incredibly elastic. As Janis Butevics says, you can use that to your advantage if you need a quick way to store a large volume of water. They essentially act like bladders and are capable of holding a gallon of water,” Butevics says.
“They can also be used to protect against water, as a stretchable cover for valuable items like matches and walkie-talkies,” Butevics wrote.
Picking out exits ahead of time will cut through your “normalcy bias.”
When warnings are sent about natural disasters, many people stay put even when told to evacuate. As John Ewing says, psychologists call the phenomenon the “normalcy bias.” It refers to people’s tendency to think everything will turn out OK even when they’re clearly in danger.
Ewing says people can counteract the normalcy bias by locating multiple exits when they’re in public places, such as at the movies or out to eat. Mentally preparing yourself to act if a dangerous situation arises will train you to be vigilant, Ewing says.
Gray rings around the iris can signal high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- Wikimedia Commons
The condition could also have implications for heart health. Arteries can clog when there is excessive fat in the blood, possibly leading to heart attack.