First Aid... Plan First

First Aid... Plan First
Pressed by necessity, wade fishermen have developed various contraptions to protect their catch from pesky sharks.

The old saying among wade fishermen is that once we step out of the boat we enter the food chain. In the water we are no longer the apex predator we are on land where we rule supreme over the creatures of the wild.

We use protective gear designed to deflect or stop the barb of a stingray or we shuffle our feet, sliding along the bottom to avoid stepping on a ray and excite it to whip its tail in self-defense. If we are really proactive we have a well-stocked first aid kit with up to date items in it which are used to treat stingray barb wounds, hook punctures, cuts, scrapes and jellyfish stings.

We should keep onboard, peroxide and or bleach to clean the punctures, cuts and scrapes and antibacterial ointments or solutions to apply as a final prevention from infection and lessen the chance of vibrio vulnificus invading your system.

So what should a marine first aid kit contain? I can tell you what is in the first aid kit on my boat. I did some checking before I put one together and I wanted to avoid having to buy a ready-made kit, so I more or less followed what the USCG has in their kits and made my own modifications.

Bandages (Band-Aid to larger compression bandages)
Iodine swabs
Antibiotic ointment
Burn ointment
OTC pain meds - I carry aspirin, Advil and Tylenol
Heat packs
Cold packs

It would be nice if we could keep prescription antibiotic in our kits but with federal laws the way they are and with the reluctance of physicians to prescribe antibiotics these days, it would be hard to do so. For myself though, I'm going to try and always have a broad spectrum antibiotic with me when I travel from now on.

Case in point is this past Memorial Day weekend when some friends and I went on an overnight fishing trip; I had some tooth discomfort a week earlier but with flossing and brushing the irritation went away and I thought no more of it. I figured that it could wait until my next dental appointment to get checked out.

We left on Saturday morning and stayed at a friend's house out in the bay. The wind was howling and our hopes for finding clean water to wade was diminishing by the hour. At lunch I grilled some deer sausage and when I took a bite of my sandwich I was rewarded with a sharp pain in my upper left jaw. It really hurt and the throbbing that came with it lasted all night. I didn't bring our boat so I didn't have my First Aid kit but a friend had some pain reliever in his shaving kit and without it I doubt that I would have made the night without having to be taken to a clinic. Supper was miserable for me and if it wasn't liquid well I just couldn't chew.

By Sunday morning I could feel fever in my upper left jaw with the gum swelling at the rear molar I felt perfectly horrible. If anything touched the gum it felt as if my head would blow up so we packed up and headed in. It was a long two hour drive home and I had called my wife and had her calling the doctors and dentists but none were available on the long weekend. I debated going to the emergency room because I didn't want to spend the money for one and for another I didn't know how they would treat an oral disorder. So I called them and explained my situation. I was told that the attending physician would examine me and probably recommend that I see my dentist on Tuesday. Good call not going in; I had planned on doing that anyway.

By Monday morning I was really hurting and sick too; without some leftover prescription pain meds I would have had to go to the ER. I finally got in touch with a dentist who prescribed me some antibiotic and got started on that, then went to see the dentist on Wednesday morning.

What he discovered was that I had cracked my upper rear molar at the gum line and food and other nastiness had gotten in and caused an abscess and the tooth couldn't be saved. I was lucky that I had been taking the antibiotic as the swelling was down enough for the dentist to remove the tooth. So with a prescription for more antibiotic and some fresh pain pills I left the dentist's office with a numb face but thankful that the whole ordeal hadn't been worse. The dentist reminded me how close that infection was to my brain... that will make you think.

Back to wade fishing we hear a lot of shark stories these days. To my thinking the best solution for dealing with aggressive sharks when wading is to avoid them. Why risk sacrificing valuable body parts when all you have to do is get in the boat and fish another spot?

Now not all areas of all bays are plagued with this problem. In areas where shark encounters have become notoriously common we see and hear of fishermen taking uncommon measures. Keeping your catch on a stringer is a bad idea in sharky places and more and more fishermen are inventing shark proof containers for their fish. Personally I can put up with a few pesky black tips but when bull sharks six feet and longer show up, I'll be drift fishing the area for the rest of my time there.

Just recently a guy told me he nearly lost some fingers reaching to grab a trout splashing at his side in belly deep water. It seems he reached for the fish at the exact time a sizeable black tip decided it wanted it too. The only reason there was no loss of appendages is that the shark nailed it a split second before his hand closed around it. A quality wading net will set you back about $30.

As we move farther away from crowds to find solitude and fish, we also move farther away from easy access to hospitals and emergency rooms and in some cases far enough that our cellular phones cannot find a signal. Marine radios have come a long way over time and the waterproof models hold up very well these days. That radio can save someone's life should an emergency come up and your iPhone has no service.

Dangers from what is in the water are only part of the concerns we should have when we leave the dock. How many of you are skilled in CPR and have taken a basic First Aid course? There are many different courses offered online so you can learn the basics of First Aid and learn how to properly administer CPR from the comfort of your home. If you take people fishing you owe it to them and to yourself to complete one of the First Aid and CPR courses that are available.

So it's not just things that are in the water that can cause us grief when we go fishing. Anyone can get sick, fall down and injure themselves, have a heart attack, heat stroke, or any multitude of maladies that can strike at any moment. Take it upon yourself as the captain to cover all the bases, emergencies can arise both in or out of the water.

Be Safe.