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Heal It with Booze

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Eighty-proof first aid!

"Giles knows his single malt antiseptics."

In fiction, no one ever has TCP antiseptic... but everyone has vodka. This trope occurs when a character pours liquor on a wound to disinfect it, or drinks alcohol as an anesthetic. Note that in the latter case this trope would only occur when the character is using alcohol specifically as a painkiller right before having a wound stitched up by a Backalley Doctor or a bullet extracted etc, and not when a character is just generally self-medicating with alcohol.

In Self-Surgery situations, booze can do double duty as anesthetic for the pain and Liquid Courage for the squeamishness.

Using the alcohol as an antiseptic can be an example of Worst Aid, depending on the alcohol. You need as clean an alcohol as possible for that. If you're using brown liquor or, worse, wine, then you're introducing a lot of sugar and virtually guaranteeing a nasty infection. Even medical-grade alcohol requires ten or fifteen minutes of contact time to kill bacteria; otherwise, a bacteriology professor described it as "just giving the germs something to swim in."

Not to be confused with Booze-Based Buff, where the alcohol grants abilities and is basically a power up. If the alcohol instantly remedies a characters ailments, it's more Health Food than this trope. Sub-trope of Bizarre Beverage Use.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, Krista pours a bottle of wine on Reiner's arm after a Titan mauled it. This leads to a sad moment when Gerger finds the bottle and tries to enjoy One Last Drink as a Titan grabs him. He starts crying when he realizes it's empty and demands to know who drank it all. It's doubly sad considering Reiner is actually a Titan Shifter with a Healing Factor, meaning Gerger was denied one last drink for no reason at all.
  • High School Exciting Story: Tough: Using a knife, a bottle of whiskey, and a piece of thread Oton dug a bullet out and stitched himself up after he was shot.
  • Subverted in an episode of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, where the ship's doctor considers using his personal stash when crew injuries are piling up. He considers it, takes a swig as if he's preparing to spray it, then decides it'd be a waste. Played straight in subsequent episodes when he does use it.
  • Shaman King: Horohoro uses sake as a disinfectant after tangling with a bear in Colorado.
  • In Toriko, Mansam used some booze to heal a gaping chest wound. Granted, this was because the booze was absorbed by his Gourmet Cells.

    Comic Books 
  • In Wild's End liquor is used to sterilize a character's burned hands as seen in the page image.

    Fan Fiction 
  • This Emergency! fic. Even paramedics don't always take enough first aid gear camping with them, and John is mauled by a bear. Roy cleans him up with what he has, but naturally, it isn't enough and John still needs hospital care. Roy eventually finds a group of men on their own campout, but though they help, no one has anything to stop infection. Roy, desperate to stop the infection- which already has John feverish- uses Wild Turkey to dull the pain, then clean the wounds. Not much dulling happened, though, and it was still pure agony for John when the stuff was poured on.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Black Widow (2021): When they stop to patch up their wounds outside Budapest, Yelena uses a miniature bottle of vodka to clean the gash on her arm before she bandages it.
  • Blood Brothers (2007) have the scene where Mark, surviving a shootout, wakes up and immediately asks for booze. He gets a bottle of wine, takes a swig, and pours the rest on his bullet injury.
  • In Blooded, Charlie disinfects the laceration on Ben's leg by dousing it with whisky. In the interview, Charlie comments that they didn't have any other disinfectant in the house. Given how otherwise well-equipped they were for a weekend deerstalking, it seems odd they didn't have a first aid kit.
  • It happens in Braveheart (1995): Mel Gibson's childhood pal Hamish and his father Campbell have just helped Mel defeat the local English lord, but Campbell sustained a wound in the process. He's blind drunk on whisky awaiting his son and friends helping him to Heal It With Fire. After a comedy moment where first one, and then a second clansmen say "Here, you do it, [cauterise the wound with the poker], I'll hold him down!", Campbell asks Hamish to pour some on the wound first: "Pour it straight in the wound, boy. I know it seems like a waste of good whiskey, but indulge me."
  • The Bull of the West: After Steve gets tangled up in barbed wire, Johnny swabs his wounds down with what he refers to as 'cleaning whisky'.
  • City Heat (1984). A mafia goon who gets Shot in the Ass goes to a Back-Alley Doctor for treatment. The drunken 'doctor' pours booze on his behind to disinfect it, and at that point our protagonists walk in and threaten to literally set his ass on fire if he doesn't talk.
  • In Cold Prey, Jannicke uses high proof alcohol to disinfect the compound fracture on Morten's leg where the bone is poking through the skin.
  • In the beginning of Cowboys & Aliens, Meacham the preacher pours whiskey over Lonergan's wound before stitching it up.
  • Death Proof. After being shot by one of the girls he tried running off the road, Stuntman Mike sterilizes the wound with some liquor, screaming as he does so. Then he drinks from the bottle to calm his nerves. Cue Spit Take when he sees the girls in their car speeding up in his rearview mirror, intent on revenge.
  • In The Final Sacrifice, Rowsdower pours a drink on a branded mark.
  • In From Russia with Love, James Bond helps treat Kermin Bay's gunshot wound with some alcohol.
  • The Game Changer have the protagonist, Fang-jie, being tended by his lancer and best friend, Zi-Hao after suffering a gunshot to the shoulder, via having whisky poured on the wound. Zi-Hao actually offers Fang-Jie a sip before spilling the liquor.
  • In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, after Gale is whipped bloody by the peacekeepers, Mrs. Everdeen cleans his wounds with some type of clear spirit. Haymitch, being The Alcoholic, takes a swig from the bottle after she is done.
  • In Hooded Angels, Hannah is shot is in the arm while escaping from the bank robbery. When she stops to tend her injuries, she takes a swig from a bottle of high proof liquor to dull the pain and the pours some on the wound to disinfect it.
  • In Just Like Heaven, the ghost of Elizabeth instructs Daryl (the only one who can see her) to use vodka as a sterilizing agent when performing impromptu surgery on a man in a restaurant.
  • In Serenity, after being shot through the leg by a Reaver harpoon, Jayne busies himself by pouring his flask over his leg wound... and then taking a swig.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: While patching up Holmes' leg after it is gashed during the fight with the dinosaur in the copper factory, Watson pours brandy over the wound to clean it. Holmes winces and then chastises Watson for using such an excellent vintage for such a banal purpose.
  • Done in the beginning of John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). The Norwegian shoots Bennings in the leg and they're given a flask of booze that they take a swig from before pouring it over the wound.
  • In The Tripper, Samantha cleans the cut on Ivan's scalp with alcohol before she stitches it shot.

  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death Or Glory he has a tracker who's helping guide their convoy to safety give his stash of whisky to the vet they've got working as a doctor (both because he's probably running out of antiseptic and because he wants to keep their tracker sober).
  • Inverted in Carpe Jugulum; Nanny Ogg has a bottle of medicinal alcohol clearly labelled "External use only". She offers it to the Nac Mac Feegle after they dismiss her best scumble as "bludy lemonade".
  • In the first Deverry novel, Nevyn has to clean Cullyn's wounds with alcohol after a less talented medic allowed them to get infected. Nevyn would later admit that Cullyn was the first man he'd ever met (In 400 years, not that he admitted that part) who hadn't screamed upon getting mead poured into an open wound.
  • Dr. Greta Helsing: At one point in Dreadful Company, Greta needs to treat an infected wound without access to her medical bag. When listing the supplies she'll need, she comments "you almost certainly don't have antiseptic on hand so bring me the highest-proof alcohol you can find."
  • Variation in the Destroyermen novels. The Lemurians use the paste left over from fermenting polta fruit to make seep as an antiseptic and topical anesthetic.
  • In David Eddings' The Diamond Throne, Sparhawk does first aid on one of his companions by scrubbing the wound out with some cheap wine before bandaging it. When he gets back to base, Sephrenia, the team's medic/sorceress, is less than impressed.
  • Everworld: April tries to treat Galahad's wounds and start a blood transfusion with limited 20th-century knowledge. She orders someone to get wine instead of water, as the water being germ-free is dubious at best.
  • Hurog: This being a low-tech fantasy world, alcohol is the go-to antiseptic. The heroes do know that it is not particularly pleasant to have this used on a wound, and Ward is a bit shocked when the person on whom alcohol is used in this way doesn't wake up even then.
  • Inverted in Sven Hassel's Liquidate Paris. Two Section have to do an appendectomy, advised by a doctor who's speaking to them over the radio. At one point the doctor tells them there should be a bottle of sterilizing alcohol in their first aid kit. The soldier who looks says, "There is! If I'd known that before, it wouldn't still be there!"
  • In The Mermaid of Black Conch, the mermaid Aycayia is caught by fishermen and hung up by the tail from a gaff hook on the jetty. David rescues her, takes her to his house, and pours rum on the wound.
  • After a shootout in No Deals, Mr. Bond, James Bond loses consciousness due to the bite that he received from a trained attack dog. When he comes to, he is sorry to hear that vintage wine from the year 1914 was used to clean the wound.
  • Pale: Exaggerated versions of these are part of the Gargle Blaster arsenal of the booze Goblins known as Tods. As they chaperon their Barney, someone on a sustained sometimes weeks-long Drunken Montage, they sometimes need to get their victim/partner back up after they take a hit, one example has barney walk-off being caught up in helicopter blades by taking a swig of this.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Hirsent must resort to this in order to save Reynard's life in The Baron of Maleperduys. It's justified in that she had lost her surgical kit.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, there are some instances of rudimentary surgery/medical care performed wherein a wound is sterilized with heated or boiled wine. Justified, since it is a Medieval European Fantasy, so there are no other antiseptics around.
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, after his friend is injured, the protagonist treats him with moonshine in some widow's home.
  • In a Tsukipro yokai-AU short story, Shuten-doji Shiki does this for Tengu Tsubasa after he gets into a fight and loses.
  • In West of Honor, the main character gets a minor wound, but due to an alien fungus has to get sent back to base to receive weeks of treatment. He later meets with a Private who was also wounded in the same battle, but got out earlier. It turns out the soldier used Brandy to disinfect the wound.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Altered Carbon. Dig 301 asks Poe where the "human first aid kit" is. Poe says it's behind the bar. All Dig finds is a bottle of whiskey, and when she points this out Poe adds, "There's also gin."
  • In the Angel episode "The Price", Fred is infected by a parasite that soaks up all the water in her body—so they force it out by making her drink an entire bottle of vodka.
  • Arrow. In Season 2, Oliver Queen shoots Roy Harper in the leg with an arrow to stop him running off and doing something stupid, then he has to remove it in the next episode.
    Oliver: This is going to hurt.
    Sin: (handing over a bottle) This will dull it better.
    (Roy takes a swig, then Oliver pours the rest on the wound.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • In "End of Days" while patching up the Potentials after a big battle, Andrew and Anya get a bottle of whiskey for this purpose, but end up drinking it themselves.
    • Likewise in "Lovers Walk". Vampire Spike passes out dead-drunk after his break-up with Drusilla. He's woken up the next day when the rising sun sets his hand on fire, so he dunks it in a fountain and flees for his car, where he retrieves a bottle of bourbon among a pile of empties, drenches the injury causing him to shout in pain again, then drinks from the bottle. "This is just too much."
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, Michael gets trapped in a bank robbery with Special Agent Bly. Bly goes cowboy and gets winged in the arm for his trouble, and Michael starts pretending to be a doctor. While treating Bly, he pours vodka over the wound both to disinfect and to punish him for being a jerk.
  • In one episode of the Russian TV series Dalnoboischiki ("Truckers") a provincial doctor complains that he has to use vodka as both disinfectant and anesthetic, since he has no real medical drugs.
  • In The Dukes of Hazzard the two protagonists are on probation for running moonshine for their uncle. He no longer does the bootlegging, but he's stated to still distill a little, "for medicinal purposes."
  • In the ER episode "The Long Way Around", Carol is held hostage in a convenience store and trying to treat the other customer's injuries. One of them suggests grain alcohol for sterilizing a wound—"It's the strongest".
  • In one episode of the 2007 version of Flash Gordon, Baylin had taken a bottle of vodka that she had mistaken for water in a decorative container. When she got injured Dale corrected her by pouring it on the wound.
  • General Hospital's Lucy uses vodka to clean out Luke's bullet wound after finding him.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Daredevil (2015)
      • As a child Matt Murdock had to regularly patch up his boxer father. In the second episode he brings dad a bottle of booze for antiseptic before doing so, but dad tells him to take a sip instead so his hands won't shake.
      • Downplayed when Stick demands whiskey after Elektra gets cut with a poisoned weapon—it's just one ingredient in his Magic Antidote. He demands tea as well, but that's just for him to drink afterwards.
    • Luke Cage (2016). In "Now You're Mine", while hiding in a nightclub's kitchen basement, Claire Temple sterilizes her hands and Misty's wound with alcohol, then sews her up with dental floss.
    • The Punisher (2017)
      • In "The Judas Goat", Curtis uses alcohol to disinfect the gunshot and arrow wounds Frank Castle got in the previous episode, before operating on him. He hands the bottle over to Micro when it's clear Micro can't handle watching Curtis work.
      • In "The Dark Hearts Of Men", after surviving a brutal fight with his former colleagues in a Neo-Nazi group, Pilgrim removes a packet of cocaine from one of their bodies and snorts it before his painful After-Action Patch-Up which includes resetting a dislocated jaw. Unfortunately this causes him to fall back into old habits.
  • Person of Interest. Harold Finch winces more than Sameen Shaw does when he sees her pour alcohol over a bullet wound in her shoulder.
  • A subversion in Roseanne: Dan comes home after he beats up Fisher, Jackie's abusive boyfriend. His hand was hurt in the fight and Roseanne tells him to put alcohol on it. He says "Good idea," and grabs a beer out of the fridge. The two-part episode was a high point in the series.
  • Sharpe: Happens multiple times, usually with rum. Harper even christens the cure for a flogging 'Sharpe's Half-and-Half': half a pint in your belly, half a pint on your back.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Deckwatch," a Serial Killer is shot in the leg by his latest victim. Afterwards, he hides out under a bridge, pouring whiskey over the wound.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun". Morgan Earp punches Captain Kirk in the face and injures his lip. McCoy treats Kirk by touching his lip with a cloth and Kirk flinches.
    McCoy: What's the matter?
    Kirk: What do you call that stuff? Fire?
    McCoy: Taos Lightning straight bourbon.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, The Final Mission, Captain Picard and Wesley Crusher crash-land and are stranded on a desert moon along with the shuttle pilot. Picard confiscates an alcoholic beverage from the shuttle pilot, stating that it would be better used as an antiseptic and drinking it will only increase dehydration (correct, see the Real Life examples).
  • Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural have used this method for years. Demonstrated one time when they were Trapped in TV Land on Dr. Sexy, MD—Doctor Dean got shot and Doctor Sam had to operate.
    "I need a pen knife, some dental floss, a sewing needle, and a fifth of whiskey. Stat!"
    • Sam also did this to his arm in I Know What You Did Last Summer after he and Dean got smacked around by the demon Alastair.
  • Disney's The Swamp Fox series has one of these in the episode 'Tory Vengeance'. Francis Marion gives some to his nephew as an anesthetic after the boy is shot-sadly, he can't do anything for the wound. Justified, though, as it was the 1700s, and medical care as we know it didn't exist.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In one of St. Paul's letters to his friend Timothy, Paul urges him to drink some wine for his stomach problems, and that such an act is not sinful or bad because a) the intent is to make Timothy's ailing stomach feel better, not to get wasted and/or engage in any kind of drunken debauchery and b) Paul acknowledges in other parts of his writings that a little worldly pleasure now and then isn't necessarily a bad thing.
    • Although some mega-teetotal churches have been known to suggest that Paul was instructing Timothy to rub the wine on his stomach as an ointment - because drinking it would be, like bad, and not something that Paul would ever suggest...
    • In the Bible itself, wine is sometimes used to clean wounds. Considering the varying quality of water at that time, a good idea.
  • St. Arnold became patron saint of brewmasters and hop farming because he noticed that peasant farmers who drank beer (which had been boiled and had bacteria-killing alcohol) weren't getting the same illnesses that those who only drank well water got. During an outbreak of water-borne illness, he provided low-alcohol beer to the peasants from his monastery, which curbed the outbreak.

    New Media 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, the Drunken Master eventually gained a class feature that allowed alcoholic beverages to function as healing potions for them a certain number of times per day.

    Video Games 
  • Dark Tales: Early in Ligeia, you prepare an "antiseptic bandage" to treat a stab wound by pouring an unspecified type of liquor onto a handkerchief.
  • Dead Island: Drinking alcohol will blur the character's vision and make them sway, but it also heals them. If Logan is the Player Character, drinking alcohol also increases his health regeneration rate.
  • Dead Island 2: The Slayer disinfects the gaping wound in their stomach with a bottle of whiskey.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas expansion DLC "Honest Hearts", you have to scavenge a first aid kit. When you find it, many of its components are contaminated. Not a direct usage of this trope, but hard liquors can be used to re-sterilize the contaminated components.
  • Neo Scavenger allows you to drink whiskey to temporarily relieve pain (while dehydrating you and making it worse afterwards), pour it on wounds to (painfully) clean them and quickly sterilise dirty rags to use as bandages.
  • Project Zomboid allows the player to use alcohol as a disinfectant, either by applying directly to a wound, or a bandage to sterilize it. You can also use it as a pain reliever, although getting drunk during a zombie apocalypse might not be wise.
  • Some alcoholic beverages in RuneScape restore small amounts of hit points. And during the boss battle against Rabid Jack, the player character has to drink alcohol to counter the effects of seeing an Eldritch Abomination's hand.
  • Saints Row (2022): At the end of "Be Your Own Boss", the Boss and their gang have to treat Eli's bullet wound themselves since they can't afford to take him to the doctor. Kev decides to disinfect the wound with a bottle of vodka he kept in the freezer.
  • Shadows of the Damned has a more extreme example, where gigantic bottles of liquor ranging from hot sake to absinthe are healing items. The justification is that in Hell, everything is the opposite of the human world meaning that alcohol is beneficial to you.
  • In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy, drinking vodka reduces the irradiation level, presumably by diluting the partucles and making the drinker urinate them away. It doesn't work as well as and weighs more than antirad medicine, but it's cheaper and easier to get by inexperienced stalkers that inhabit the outer edges of the Zone. In Call of Pripyat, vodka has another side-effect of making you hungry.
  • In West of Loathing, the alcoholic Doc Alice heals herself by chugging from her bottle of Nurse Whisky.

    Visual Novels 
  • Inverted at the yacht party in Double Homework. One of the things the protagonist sees when Rachel shows him all the recreational drugs and alcohol on board is a container of pure ethanol, which he notes is for dressing wounds rather than consumption.


    Western Animation 
  • In one Celebrity Deathmatch, Sylvester Stallone cauterised a wound by pouring alcohol on it and then lighting it on fire, causing the judges to reverse their opinions about him not being a badass.
  • In one episode of The Head, a conveniently placed bottle of whiskey is used sterilize a mutant rat bite. The character who was bitten, being Russian, utters the immortal line "No whiskey! Vodkaaaaa!"

    Real Life 
  • There are a few instances where booze is a lifesaving antidote: poisoning as a result of drinking methanol, ethylene glycol or a variety of other related chemicals, usually resulting from the consumption of wood alcohol, alcohol fuels, windshield washer fluid, some antifreezes, and similar. If someone's been determined to have been poisoned in this way, the absolute antidote is ethyl alcohol - yes, plain old drinking alcohol. It's often administered by IV for faster effect. The reason for this is that the enzyme which processes alcohol, alcohol dehydrogenase, also metabolises the other chemicals into more dangerous ones. By receiving enough alcohol, it is possible for the body to become 'occupied' with metabolising it, thus producing much less of the harmful metabolites of the other chemicals.
    • As discussed by Chubbyemu, people who regularly make moonshine often risk poisoning with methanol, usually by inhaling methanol vapours or drinking the heads (the first part of the product to leave the distiller, which usually contains a large amount of methanol if not prepared properly); one of the cases featured involved a male patient who made his own moonshine, then drank it at a BYOB party, and while he seemed okay at first, since the moonshine he drank also contained a lot of regular ethanol, once that was expended the methanol in the heads from his still quickly metabolised into methanoic acid which made him go blind.
    • On the documentary True Stories of the ER, a emergency room patient had been poisoned with ethylene glycol by his girlfriend, and the doctor (lacking access to the proper medicine) sent the patient's father to the liquor store to acquire a large amount of cheap rotgut to treat the patient. It worked, and the girlfriend was arrested for assault.
    • Similarly, if you are consuming something with a lot of aspartame (which metabolizes, in large enough amounts, to sublethal but possibly injurious amounts of methanol) have an alcoholic drink with it unless you are driving or operating machinery or otherwise have a contraindication for alcohol. But before you start chasing your Diet Coke with a shot of Jack Daniels, know that unless you work with raw aspartame on a industrial level, you need to drink a bathtub-full of Diet Coke to reach toxic levels. Avoid aspartame if possible - while not lethal, small amounts can give you a headache. Some people experience this after as little as one piece of candy with aspartame. While you could try to treat that with alcohol, it is probably not a good idea, considering that alcohol also causes headaches in some people.
    • From the 1960s up to the mid-1980s, ethyl alcohol was also used to halt premature labor in pregnant women, and it was actually proven to work quite well. The only reason it's not used anymore is because hospitals really don't want to be liable for causing fetal alcohol syndrome (which was discovered mainly as a result of this treatment).
    • Both Housenote  and Casualtynote  have used this one.
  • Alcoholics forced into immediate and sudden withdrawal from all alcohol will often develop a fatal withdrawal syndrome called delirium tremens - and must be given alcohol again (or benzodiazepines like Valium, which have similar effects) to end it and prevent death. Physically dependent alcoholics have to quit or reduce drinking slowly or be weaned off alcohol in a medical setting to prevent this from happening.
  • Alcohol was both the very first anesthetic and the very first painkiller to be discovered and used, due to drunkenness often heavily increasing pain tolerance. Modern medicine has advanced well beyond that point in all but the most desperately deficient settings, with the advent of far safer and more reliable surgical anesthesia and the variety of painkillers that work via other means (from aspirin and other anti-inflammatories to opiate-based narcotic painkillers).
  • Alcohol was also the very first psychiatric medication/sleep aid to exist, although its use as such in modern times is recognized as a very bad idea due to its tendency to deepen depression as a depressant, result in less restful sleep, and its addictiveness when used to deal with emotional suffering. That, unfortunately, doesn't stop people from trying to self-medicate mental illness with it.
  • There was a case in 1995 where a woman had severe chest pains and breathlessness while the airplane was in flight (she'd had an accident earlier, and her injuries caused a tension pneumothorax) . Two doctors diagnosed this and performed surgery that MacGyver would be proud of. Cognac was used as a disinfectant. The patient quickly recovered, was taken to hospital when the plane landed in London and recouperated quite nicely. The surgeon celebrated the successful operation by drinking the rest of the brandy.
  • In a famous cholera epidemic in England, brewery workers survived and didn't become infected because of their drinking beer rations instead of water. Boiling the water and the fermentation of yeasts both killed off the cholera bacteria, making the beer far safer than the standing well water at the Broad Street Pump.
  • In a similar example, while alcohol is dehydrating, beer is the least dehydrating alcoholic beverage due to its fluid volume and often fairly low alcohol content, and if your hydration choice is between beer or non-fortified wine (especially that safely bottled or canned) and water of questionable sanitation or worse, seawater, drink the beer or wine. The diarrhea from infected water sources or the dehydration and purgative diarrhea from seawater will kill you much more certainly than any dehydration from the alcohol content.
    • Also, while higher proof alcohol will dehydrate and possibly kill you if consumed instead of water, it can work as an emergency water purifier. If you have nothing else to purify water, pouring a half shot of tequila or vodka or whiskey or rum into it and shaking it, then letting it sit covered for around 3 minutes, will kill living contamination such as amoeba, bacteria, viruses, and parasites (though not remove chemicals or heavy metals or radioactivity), and the resulting mixture will be more hydrating than dehydrating.
  • Many a survival guide advocates bringing some high-proof alcohol along for this (in addition to being usable as an accelerant to quickly and easily start a fire), but warns against actually drinking it, as it can dehydrate you (desert/jungle survival), cause you to develop hypothermia (cold-weather survival), and affect your judgment, which could lead to poor decision-making in a crisis.
  • Alcoholic beverages, such as hot toddys and hot buttered rum were once used to treat colds and flus. Not so much anymore, since, as mentioned before, they dehydrate you. Still valid enough as a treatment as long as proper hydration is done otherwise, and NyQuil is actually effective because of its high alcohol + antihistamine content over anything else in the mixture. The reason? Vasodilation (which helps congestion clear up) and the sleepiness-inducing ability - which is one of the best treatments for colds, the flu, and similar illnesses. That said, don't administer with acetaminophen (Brand Name Takeover Tylenol, Excedrin, Panadol) unless you want liver failure.
  • Gin and tonic was originally created as a prophylactic for malaria. Technically, it's the quinine in the tonic water that prevents malaria, but the gin and lemon makes it more palatable since it's so bitter.
  • The myth of reviving a frostbitten patient with a swig of brandy was never real. Alcohol causes vasodilation and a quick boost of warmness to the extremities of the body (which was noticed because the blood vessels at the extremities are near the surface of the skin, as opposed to the deeper arterial vessels), but shortly afterwards the body cools even quicker and dangerous core hypothermia ensues. That said, it might be okay if the patient is already in a warm location (e.g. they are warming up indoors from only mild cold exposure/minor frostbite, which is what fueled the myth - people who were generally okay but just uncomfortably cold/with mild frostnip) but if they are still out in the cold or have medically significant hypothermia, it's a very bad idea. Specifically what's happening is alcohol makes your circulatory system open up and flow faster, especially to your extremities, which would make them warm better by having warm blood flow through them. The catch is that your circulatory system constricts in the first place to keep that warm blood centralized for your vital organs as much as possible and away from places that lose heat quickly like your fingers. So drinking alcohol will warm your extremities, but only by spending more of your internal body heat. It MIGHT help in a warm environment where you aren't in danger of losing body heat, but if you're out in the cold you're just disabling your body's defense mechanism to ration out heat, using up your total amount that much faster. In any case, the most advisable options when it comes to treating hypothermia & exposure are finding or making shelter/insulation and sharing body heat through lying side-by-side.
  • Rock & Rye (Rye whiskey with rock candy) is a fabulous cough medicine, even when sipped very slowly.
  • Prior to 2010 Diageo, the company that owns Guinness, offered a free pint of the black stuff to anyone who donated blood to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service. This started decades earlier when Guinness was advertised as giving one strength, and popular wisdom in Ireland holds that Guinness would restore one's iron levels after giving blood. This does not appear to be true, but it turns out the stuff does contain useful levels of antioxidants that reduce one's risk of blocked arteries.
    • Some doctors used to give new mothers Guinness for nursing difficulties, as it contains a lot of helpful vitamins for that purpose. Not as common nowadays due to concerns about babies and alcohol.
  • High-proof alcohol (35 percent ABV or above, such as whiskey/rum/vodka) can serve as a temporary dental anesthetic and antiseptic in the absence of proper dental care for a severe cavity or broken tooth if swished against the area or directly applied, to prevent a more severe infection or abscess. It doesn't work if you already have an abscess, though (when you will require antibiotics and draining), and can damage the root of the tooth, necessitating extraction when you do get to a dentist. It's also only a short-term solution, because exposure of the tissues of the mouth to alcohol (whether in liquor or high alcohol content mouthwashes) increases one's risk of oral cancer, especially if one also uses tobacco.
  • Alcohol is sometimes suggested as a "nightcap", to aid sleep, and it can help in some cases where sleep is inhibited by pain or anxiety, but heavy or longterm use is contraindicated as it can interfere with sleep patterns, providing unconsciousness, but not rest.
  • During the COVID-19 Pandemic, alcohol-based hand sanitizer was in short supply. At least one vodka distiller had to publicly tell people their product didn't have enough ethanol to be a substitute. (There are several DIY recipes online using stronger beverage alcohols such as Everclear to make hand sanitizer ... and many distilleries switched over to making hand sanitizer for medical personnel and first responders.)


Video Example(s):


Plane Crash Survivor

After surviving a plane crash, the Slayer wakes up to find they've been impaled. Luckily there's a first aid kit, but it doesn't have the equipment needed to properly treat a gaping wound.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorstAid

Media sources: