Truth or death: Can you separate survival myth from reality?

Do you know how to survive in these life-threatening situations?
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A lot of faulty survival information gets passed around. Can you sort out which actions will save you, and which might kill you?

Question 1 of 10

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What to do in a bear attack
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If you're attacked by a bear, always play dead.

How you respond to a bear depends on the species and the type of attack. A grizzly mother charging to protect her cubs requires a play-dead moment. But with a black bear making a bluff charge, it's best to make yourself big and loud to scare it off. The bottom line: Don't just drop to the ground no matter what. Know your bear species, pay attention to the context of the situation, and be ready to respond accordingly.

Question 2 of 10

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Barrel cactus don't provide drinking water
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If lost in the desert, rehydrate by drinking from a barrel cactus.

Barrel cacti are not a reliable source of water. You'll likely lose more in sweat trying to cut open the thick, tough flesh than you would regain from any liquid held within. Also, only the liquid from five varieties is even remotely safe to consume. Choose the wrong variety and the liquid will cause vomiting, diarrhea and cramps — all things that speed up dehydration and your likelihood of dying.

Question 3 of 10

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Snake bites require medical attention
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If you're bitten by a snake, the first thing to do is suck the venom out of the wound.

No, sucking the venom from a wound doesn't help. Not only will that fail to keep the venom from spreading, it could help it spread faster by getting venom in your mouth as well as at the bite location. If bitten, call 911 and get help from someone with anti-venom.

Question 4 of 10

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Frostbite requires special care
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If you notice you're getting frostbite, you should put the affected area in lukewarm water.

Once you realize you have frostbite, it's intuitive to try and rub the skin to increase circulation or use hot water to reheat the area. Both of these actions should be avoided. Instead, use lukewarm water — 99 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit — to rewarm the skin. Then get to an emergency room right away.

Question 5 of 10

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Food isn't the top priority when lost in the woods
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If you become lost in the wilderness, don't worry about finding food right away.

Despite what adventure shows emphasize about foraging for food in the wild, this isn't really your top concern when you realize you're lost. The human body can last weeks without food. So your first priority isn't finding food, but rather finding your way back to civilization. Shelter, safe drinking water and a path toward rescue all come before food.

Question 6 of 10

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Do you know how to fight off a shark?
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If a shark attacks you, punch it in the highly sensitive nose.

While it's true that a shark's nose is sensitive, aiming a punch there is not necessarily the best reaction to an attack. In the exceedingly rare case that a shark tries to bite you, first try to get something between you and the shark's mouth — your camera, surf board, fishing spear, anything. Then fight back. If you can land a punch on the nose, eyes or gills, good for you. But you likely won't be thinking too much about great aim.

Question 7 of 10

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Do you know how to respond if you are impaled by a knife, stick or other object?
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If you impale yourself with a knife or other object, leave it in your body.

This goes against intuition. But, if you impale yourself on something, you actually want to leave it in place until you get to a hospital. Pulling the object out can increase bleeding or, worse, further damage the area if it is pulled out badly. While it seems awful, leave the object in until you receive medical help.

Question 8 of 10

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Is rushing water safe to drink?
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If you are dehydrated, you can drink straight from a water source as long as it is running water.

Nope! Just because it's running water doesn't mean it lacks the microbes and pathogens that can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and other serious illness. It may have a lower chance of causing you harm, but there is indeed still a chance. The only safe way to consume water is by using a filter, iodine or boiling it before drinking.

Question 9 of 10

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How long should you boil water to purify it?
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To make water safe to drink, boil it for at least 10 minutes.

You don't have to boil water for nearly this long to make it safe to drink. Any dangerous organisms will die in a fraction of that time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Water should be brought to a rolling boil for 1 minute. At altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (greater than 2000 meters), you should boil water for 3 minutes."

Question 10 of 10

Score: 0

Does alcohol really warm your body temperature?
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When lost in the snow, drink brandy or other liquor to raise your body temperature.

Despite the popular icon of the Saint Bernard dog carrying a miniature barrel of brandy to warm rescued people, alcohol does not warm you up. And, if you're trying to survive a night stuck in the snow, consuming alcohol is just about the last thing you want to do. That's because it actually lowers your core temperature and makes you more likely to suffer from hypothermia. Save the booze for after you're rescued.

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Do you know how to survive in these life-threatening situations?
Photo: NEstudio/Shutterstock
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