iStock_000061512918_LargeMany Vermonters are eagerly awaiting the opening weekend of the trout fishing season.

Fishing is a fun way to spend time outside and enjoy nature, but it does come with some risk. Most anglers have experienced a time when a hook got stuck in their skin. Here are a few tips for how to prevent hook injuries in the first place and what you should do if you find yourself stuck with a hook.

  • Use barbless hooks. The barb is the sharp point of the hook that faces backward from the tip of the point of a hook, and causes the majority of the issues when someone gets hooked. Barbless hooks are much easier to remove from the skin and can often be removed pushing the hook out of the place where it went into the skin.
  • Protect yourself. Eye protection is essential when fishing, as a hook lodged in an eye or other sensitive area, is an emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. Wearing sunglasses and a hat while fishing reduces the chance of hooking your eye or face and also lessens the impact of the sun’s glare on the water.
  • Watch your cast. Knowing where you are casting and who is around you is very important to make sure you don’t accidently hook your fishing buddies. Fishing with new anglers can present many opportunities for someone to get stuck with a hook.

If you do find yourself hooked here are some helpful tips on what to do next.

  • Stay calm. Accidents happen when fishing, and the sting of a hook setting in your skin can shake even the most veteran of anglers. Keep calm and get to a place where you can focus on removing the hook safely.
  • Cut the line from the hook as close to the hook as possible. Removing the line and any extra weight pulling on the hook reduces the chance that the hook will go deeper into the wound.
  • Check to see how deep the hook is in your skin. Most hooking accidents involve the top layers of skin, often on the hands or the feet, and are easily removed at the time of injury. Occasionally hooks get stuck deeper in the skin and can damage muscles, nerves, or blood vessels. Deeper hooks should be evaluated by medical professionals to minimize further damage to your body with removal.
  • Get a tetanus booster shot. Tetanus boosters are given every 10 years in people without injuries. If it has been more than five years since your last tetanus shot, you should come to get another one.
  • Watch your skin. After removing the hook, check your skin for the next 1-2 weeks. If you see any signs of redness, swelling, or the area feels warm, call your doctor. Infection of the skin after getting hooked is uncommon, but it can happen and if it does occur it needs to be treated with antibiotics.

David Swift, MD, is a family medicine physician at Family Medicine Milton. 

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