Marine First Aid

Fish hooks

Many a fisherman has felt the pain associated with stabbing an extremity with a fish hook. Thankfully, these wounds are generally not dangerous when properly treated. In all cases, proper treatment is crucial due to the potential side effects of the unclean metal.

Before attempting to remove the fish hook, assess if removal in the field will cause any side effects. For example, never attempt to remove an object in the eye or near a major artery. When in doubt, it is wise to err on the side of caution and transport to an urgent care unit or emergency department. Once satisfied that removal can be done in the field, assess how deep the hook has gone in. It is generally advisable to have another person remove the hook whenever possible. Where the barb has not fully penetrated the skin, gently but firmly pull the hook out. If the barb is buried in the skin, attempting to remove the hook this way will only create a bigger hole, cause more pain to the patient, and potentially lead to unpleasant side effects. In these cases, the barb must be eliminated before the hook can be removed. The most commonly used method is to carefully loop the hook around and push it back through the skin. Once the barb is visible, use wire cutters or another sharp instrument to separate the barb from the hook. (If the hook was barbless to begin with, simply back the hook out through the entry hole.) Then back the barbless hook out through the original hole. Thoroughly clean all wounds and remove any and all remnants. Apply an antibiotic ointment and apply a sterile dressing. Wrap the bandage firmly but do not cut off circulation.

Post treatment care

The risk of tetanus may necessitate a booster immunization. Due to the fatality rate of tetanus, it is strongly advisable that victims receive the immunization if needed. The wound site should be monitored for signs of infection. If signs appear or the wound does not appear to be healing normally, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


This article incorporates public domain material from Wikidoc and MedlinePlus. Please see licenses for further details.

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