By Mary K. Janco
The contents of the page are for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions you have regarding a medical condition. DO NOT disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment because of information you read on this site. If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
First aid skills are something we can use in every dimension of our lives. Accidents happen! Regardless of your location, setting, activity, alertness, opportune or inopportune times, things happen and when they do, they are sometimes followed by an “oops!”
The information below is basic, however, not insignificant. It should not be substituted for first aid training, CPR training, or common sense that is urging you to seek medical help. The topics included here are to make you think ahead about situations in which you might one day find yourself. Rendering first aid can make a difference in a life and death situation but in no way should it be a substitute for paramedic attention and hospitalization. 911 is imprinted in our memories for a reason!
How many near misses have we all had with this one? There is no good reason not to mash down the barbs on the hooks of your flies. It is much easier on the fish being released, and it is much easier on you or your fishing buddy if one of you needs to be “released”. However, if you have forgotten this one little task and find yourself impaled by a fishhook, these steps will ensure it is properly detached.
- Most fishhook mishaps do not involve deep tissue but only the soft tissue, and thus they can usually be removed with minimal medical assistance. The exception is a hook in the eye. Cover the eye and seek immediate medical or ophthalmologic assistance.
- There are first aid kits designed for removing fishhooks. If you have one, know how to use it ahead of time.
- The string-yank method is probably the most-used technique for removing fishhook. This is also called the “stream” technique as it is often used in the field. It results in little trauma to the surrounding tissue. To perform this procedure, complete the following steps.
- Wrap a piece of string or fishing line around the bend of the hook.
- Firmly and quickly pull or yank the string while continuing to apply downward pressure on the hook shank. Voilà – out comes the hook.
- Apply pressure to the shank, pushing it firmly against the skin.
- Clean and dress the wound with antibiotic ointment, lightly cover, and seek medical attention for a tetanus shot. Tetanus shots are effective for five years and anglers should keep vaccinations current.
- Another method for hook removal is to advance the barb through the skin, cut the barb off with wire cutters, and then pull out the remaining shank. However, this method traumatizes the surrounding tissue, is hard to perform on oneself, and relies on having wire cutters or pliers handy.
This section should be called, “Bitten in Texas by WHHHAAATTT???”
No see-ems, see-ums, swat-ems, catch-ems, stomp-ems, scratch-ems…got the picture?
Many of Texas’ flying insects will usually deposit a stinger at the site. This causes pain and swelling due to an histamine reaction and possibly an allergic reaction causing difficulty breathing.
- Try to remove the stinger by scraping it out or tweezing (that’s what those tweezers are for on your pocket knife). Gently wash the area, apply an ice pack, and keep an eye out for an allergic reaction. If you know you have severe reactions to bee or wasp stings, you should always have an epi-pen with you. Antihistamines help counter the stings, which can be fatal for some individuals.
The good news is that honeybees only sting once, leaving their stinger behind and flying off to die. Unfortunately, wasps and yellow jackets can deliver punch after punch of venomous injections.
Spider or Scorpion Bites
Anything that sounds like “arachnid” should hurt! We’re not sure how many species there are of spiders and such, but Texas must host one of each. While brown recluse and black widows are the lethal venomous varieties, there are plenty of others out there with a nasty bite.
Should you discover a bite mark associated with pain and swelling and you are nauseous, vomiting, and having difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should suspect a spider or scorpion bite. Venomous spider bites will continue to worsen for 24 hours. You may notice redness spreading from the site making for a halo appearance radiating outwards accompanied by numbness and tingling. Systemic reactions affecting muscle contraction and nerve function are also common.
- Gently wash the area, apply an ice pack, and seek medical attention for antivenin treatment. Call 911 if necessary. Spider bites are often hard to identify.
How many times have you looked at the old-fashioned snakebite kit in the first aid box? It consisted of a razor blade for cutting the wound and a rubber suction squeeze device for extracting the venom. Those days are gone. No hacking with the razor or sucking out the venom.
If you discover a puncture-type bite mark, you should suspect a snake bite. The bite will be painful, and the injury may be life-threatening.
- Gently wash the wound taking care to keep the wound area lower than the heart. Firmly wrap the area with rags, gauze, a bandana, etc., ensuring that you don’t cut off circulation.
- Call 911.
- TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT THE SNAKE LOOKED LIKE.
This covers a plethora of Texas varmints and possibly ones carrying rabies. It is always best to assume if bitten by a wild animal that it is rabid; so act accordingly:seek medical attention immediately!
The bite mark will most likely be bleeding and painful. It may be puncture wounds or a tearing, ripping, shredding wound site.
- If the bleeding is minimal, gently wash the area with soap and water.
- If the bleeding is severe, apply pressure or pressure bandages to control the bleeding. Be sure not to cut off circulation.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the wound.
- Call 911 if necessary. Contact animal control to report the incident.
All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to rabies…that includes us! Texas is known for rabies in skunks, bats, coyotes, and foxes. Note unusual or unexpected behavior such as an animal being overly friendly or perhaps a nocturnal animal being seen out during the day. Wild animals infect domestic animals, which in turn infect us.
TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT THE ANIMAL LOOKED LIKE AND WHERE YOU LAST SAW IT.
Marine Life Stings
When I’m headed off saltwater fishing, a good friend of mine always says that there are only two things in the ocean, fish and fish food. (just thought I’d add that for thought).
After being in the water, you may find marks associated with pain, swelling, and possible allergic reaction.
- If you have come in contact with a jellyfish – soak the site in vinegar as soon as possible. Do not rub the site. Apply a paste of unseasoned meat tenderizer. Acids or urine may relieve the sting. Try to avoid jellies in the water, and do not touch dead jellies on the beach, as their stinging cells are still intact.
- If you have come in contact with a stingray – soak the site in very hot water until the pain subsides. The hot water breaks down a protein in the venom thus deactivating the poison. With enough hot water, the venom will become gelatinous and ooze from the site. This is a good thing. Clean the site and cover with a bandage. The stings are terribly painful but seldom life-threatening.
- Call 911 if necessary.
Everyone in Texas surely knows this one. We all suffer from sunburns sooner or later and perhaps repeatedly if we are slow learners. Prevention goes a long way in the sun AND even when it’s cloudy.
Wear protective clothing. It is difficult to wear long sleeves in the summer in Texas, but it is actually cooler with the fabric protecting your skin instead of the cruel rays beating down upon you. The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) measures a garment’s ability to block harmful rays from the sun. There are many high-tech fishing shirts on the market that offer ultimate protection. UPF 50 means the garment will allow 1/50 or 2% of the UV rays through the fabric. Standard white t-shirts rate about 7%. Industry standards require a garment to block from 15% to 50% of the UV rays in order to display the sun protective labeling. These shirts are definitely worth the extra money to protect your skin. Wearing long sleeves also cuts down on the drying and chaffing of windburn.
Slather, slather, slather. Apply a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunscreen with both UVB and UVA protection about 30 minutes before going fishing or being in the sun. You will need to reapply the sunscreen about every 60 to 90 minutes. Many sunscreens damage fly lines. Look for a brand that is compatible with fly line.
Don’t forget eye protection. Wear sunglasses with UV absorbing abilities. Besides eye protection, you should also look for lenses that are polarized. Polarized glasses are excellent for fishing. They enhance your vision in the water to allow you to “see” fish, logs and bottom structure as you are wading. Besides sun protection, you should never fish without sunglasses to assure you do not injure your eyes while casting. Large flies, errant winds, and misplaced casts can easily land the fly in your eye.
Despite taking precautions you may eventually find yourself sunburned.
- Get out of the sun and hydrate your body with plenty of water or sports drinks. Colas or alcoholic beverages are not helpful.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen can help sunburn symptoms. (Follow label instructions). DO NOT give aspirin to children.
- Cool compresses and baths may be soothing. You can make cool compresses from equal parts of milk and water or Burrow’s Solution (available at drugstores) and leave on 15 to 20 minutes.
- Soaking in a cool water bath and using soft towels may help.
- Medications with a topical anesthetic should be avoided. The skin can become hyper sensitive and an allergic reaction is possible.
- Lotions with aloe are helpful to some.
- Severe sunburns accompanied by high fever or pain require medical attention; especially if there is no improvement in a couple of days.
Heat Related Illness
Here is another category of maladies that are hard to avoid in the Texas sun. Proper hydration and limiting your time in the sun can curtail some of the heat-related illnesses.
Big, over-worked muscles are the first to succumb to cramps. Your calves, thighs, abdomen and stomach may spasm followed later on by cramping.
- Get out of the heat, drink plenty of fluids such as water and sports drinks (not colas or alcohol), and try to gently stretch or massage the muscle area.
Over exertion outdoors in the heat brings on sweating and sometimes so much sweating, that the body overheats. Be aware of these symptoms:
- An increase in body temperature above 104°F.
- Skin will feel cool to the touch, be moist and pale or flushed, and accompanied by a headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion.
Heat stroke can occur under the same conditions as heat exhaustion, but it is a life-threatening situation. Be aware of these symptoms:
- The body has lost all of its ability to cool itself . Body temperature rises to above 105°F, which results in brain damage and damage to internal organs.
- The skin will feel hot and dry and appears visibly red. There will be a weak pulse, rapid shallow breathing, and a likely loss of consciousness.
Both Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke need the same treatment.
- Get out of the heat.
- Loosen tight clothing and/or remove clothing.
- Apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin and fan the person.
- If the person is conscious, let them slowly drink cool water about every 15 minutes. Do not offer colas or alcohol or any drink with caffeine.
- Call 911 if the person loses consciousness, vomits, or refuses to drink water.
While frostbite is not an ongoing concern in Texas, we do have a few days of wintry mix where you could encounter freezing temperatures. There are many excellent northern waters where fly fishing is a ‘winter thing’, and many of us are tempted by those adventures. Any outdoor activity in prolonged cold can cause a subnormal temperature in the body and especially the appendages.
- After exposure to freezing temps, you may have a lack of feeling or skin that is waxy in appearance or cold to the touch. It might also be discolored or flushed and appear white, yellow, or blue.
- Get out of the cold taking care NOT TO RUB the injured area.
- Gently soak the affected areas in tepid water until the skin appears red and feels warm to the touch.
- Loosely cover the affected area. Gauze or cloth may be placed between fingers or toes taking care not to break any blisters that may have formed.
- Seek immediate medical attention.
- Over exposure to cold manifests itself as shivering, numbness, indifference, glazed stare, confusion, slurred speech, and ultimate loss of consciousness.
- Call 911.
- Remove any wet or damp clothing, dry the person, and get them to a warm place.
- If they are conscious, very slowly give warm water or (non-alcoholic) liquids.
- Slowly try and warm the person.
- If unconscious, continually check breathing and pulse.
- Perform rescue breathing if necessary.
- Perform CPR if necessary.
Sprains or Breaks to Limbs
No matter how experienced you are, dirt shifts, ankles give, cars run off roads, and bones break (in no particular order).
- Always support the injured limb above and below the suspected break or sprain. You can make a rigid splint by using a tree limb, fence post, metal stake, paddle, etc. Use strips of cloth, bandanas, belts, etc., to tie the splint in place above and below the joints and under the injury. You can lash the injured leg to the good leg for support. Same goes for fingers.
- A splint can also be made from soft materials, such as a pillow, towel, or blanket. Reinforce by folding and then secure the injured limb with rags or cloths.
- Inspect the skin and injury before immobilizing. Continue to check the area about every 15 minutes to make sure the swelling hasn’t cut off the circulation. Elevate the injured area to minimize swelling.
- Compound fractures are the dreaded break when the bones protrude from the skin. This is definitely a 911 priority. Immobilize the limb and lightly cover the exposed bone, keep the person warm, and look for signs of shock. Do not apply too much pressure to stop the bleeding. Do not try to push the bone back into the body or realign the limb. Seek immediate medical attention. Stay with the person and try to comfort them.
Strokes are an impairment of brain function caused from a restriction of blood flow or from hemorrhaging within another part of the brain. Results may be minimal or may have lasting consequences involving paralysis, speech problems, and muscular coordination problems. This is a serious medical emergency.
- Call 911 immediately.
- If the person is conscious, have them recline in a comfortable position, withhold liquids and food. If they are drooling, place them on their side for drainage from the mouth. Be calm, assuring, and comfort them.
- If the person is unconscious, check to make sure the mouth is clear of any fluids or vomit. Place them on their side to assist any possible drainage.
Choking is caused by an obstruction in the airways, be it food, liquid, or foreign material. Recognition of a choking victim and administering immediate assistance is key to that person’s survival.
- If a person cannot speak, breathe, or cough, they are most likely choking. If they can respond to you and speak or cough, do not interfere. Let them try and clear their own airway.
- To assist, stand behind the person, wrapping your arms around the person’s waist.
- Place your fists, thumb side up and against the middle of the abdomen and just above the belly button and below the ribs.
- Give quick, upward and inward thrusts into the abdomen. This should force the foreign matter from the person’s airway. Continue this until the person expels the foreign matter.
A person experiences shock when there is a reduction of the blood circulating through the body causing insufficient oxygen to reach the tissue and vital organs. The heart fails to pump enough blood, and the body fails to work properly.
- A person may exhibit many symptoms such as pale, cool, damp, clammy skin, rapid breathing and pulse, nausea, thirst, altered consciousness, and irritability.
- Place the person in a prone position with their legs elevated about 12” unless you suspect there might be a head, neck, or back injury or broken hip or leg bones.
- Control any external bleeding with compresses or pressure bandages being sure not to cut off circulation.
- Lightly cover the person if they are cold, and DO NOT give them anything to eat or drink.
- Call 911 immediately.
Rescue Breathing and/or CPR
There may be times when you find yourself needing to render extreme first aid. This includes rescue breathing and cardiac pulmonary resuscitation or CPR.
Please click the WebMD® link below for information on both techniques. There is nothing better than becoming certified in CPR, and I highly recommend that you take a class in your community.
For more information on rescue breathing and CPR, visit: