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How to get Rid of Leeches - Myth Busters, Removal and Treatment

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Looking like tiny worm-like creatures, leeches have a bad reputation of lurking in the dark murky moist undergrowth areas just waiting to latch on to the next blood donor that comes along. What is a Leech? Leeches are related to worms and are water-dwelling creatures which feed themselves by fastening on to a host and sucking its blood. Seeing a leech attached to your body can seem gross and uncomfortable in itself, not to mention being aware of how to get rid of leeches yourself can be a squeamish process too.

Admittedly categorized as creepy creatures by general consensus, each leech is known to have 32 brains and even a few sets of eyes. If you chance upon picking up one or more of these slimy hitch-hikers, a word of advice, don’t just rip them off your body. The removal of leeches should be done correctly to prevent any further complications. Follow the correct ways of removal and you could reduce the levels of danger or any reason to worry.

The common habitat for Leeches is marshes, ponds, lakes, and swamps and generally moist dark and dank spots, no matter what part of the world. Wet tropical rainforests are a common place for leeches to thrive like in India. You’re likely to find leeches in the Himalayan region, and in South Indian regions of Coorg or Kodagu, Wayanad, etc. Terrestrial leeches aren’t very large in size, though this can vary in different parts of the world.

They feed themselves to a larger weight and size, however, almost up to ten times of their weight. They do not have to feed often, and normally take in as much as they can once they have attached themselves to a victim. A single feeding can easily carry a leech through several months. It’s possible for five large leeches to drain a small animal out of blood in around thirty minutes.

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This fact shouldn’t stand as a reason to panic since the loss of blood to humans is significantly much less as compared to a small animal. A small comfort (if you’d like to call it that…) is that leech bites aren’t accompanied with any pain or hurt since they release or inject a small amount of anesthetic into the host first. This is one of the reasons that sometimes a leech being attached could go unnoticed for a while if you aren’t careful or aware.

How to Get Rid of Leeches: Leech Protection

One of the best ways to how to get rid of the leech is to keep them away from yourself, to begin with, because prevention is always better than cure.

  • When out in the wilderness, opt for long pants and tuck them into your socks to avoid any open ends and minimize the amount of exposed skin. You could also purchase leech proof socks, which are easily tied below your knees.
  • Closed shoes are always a better option than sandals or any other types of open footwear since they provide more coverage.
  • Another alternative is to spray a lot of any kind of insect repellent on your shoes and clothes. This will help in keeping the leeches at bay.
  • Tobacco or rather the scent of tobacco is also known as a common preventive measure against leeches. You can steep your socks or other articles of clothing in a water and tobacco leaves or a faster way would be to stuff some tobacco leaves into your socks too.
  • You could also rub some detergent soap into your trousers and socks.
leech protection
Wear anti-leech socks for protection from leeches(Source)

How to Remove Leeches

If you already have a leech bite, the main thing to remember is to not pull it off. Normally leeches tend to fall off of their own accord when they have had their fill, which could be around twenty minutes at the most. However, if the thought of having a bloodsucker attached to you and waiting for it to detach on its own isn’t something that you can bear, there are a few safe ways of dislodging it.

Commonly used techniques such as squeezing, burning, salting etc. lead to the leech expulsing harmful bacteria back into the bitten area and therefore into your system, which is more dangerous than the leech bite itself and not at all desired.

how to remove leeches
How to remove Leeches(Source)

The anterior or the oral sucker is the smaller or the narrower part of the leech.

With your finger adjacent to the oral sucker, carefully but firmly slide a fingernail and dislodge the sucker sideways away from the skin and the wound from which the leech is sucking.

Post detaching the oral sucker, swiftly detach the other end, the posterior or the fatter end of the leech as well. It will make an attempt to reattach, so move quickly. Use a prodding or a flicking motion with your fingernail.

Read: How to prevent Blisters while Hiking?

What is Leech Aftercare

Clean the wound well. Because of the anesthetic injected by the leech, the blood will take a while before it begins to clot. The leech in itself isn’t poisonous but the wound needs to be taken care of properly. It will have an irritating itch as it heals. Resist scratching when the temptation arises.

In a situation where the leech has entered any orifice like the mouth, ear or nose, the problem is slightly more serious since the leech will grow in size as it sucks the blood. If the leech has entered your mouth, try gargling with hydrogen peroxide or strong drinkable alcohol if you have access to any these. Worse comes to worse, the leech might have to be punctured with a sharp object to make it detach.

Wrapping Up: After Thoughts

How to get rid of leeches using safety measures is the means to lowering the risk of an infection. If post a leech bite, you feel dizzy, have abnormal sweating, contract a rash or get a fever, they could be symptoms of an allergic reaction to the bite. In such a scenario pop an antihistamine and head towards medical help. Do not ignore these signs.

There are times when viruses or bacteria from a prior source of blood has been known to survive in the leech for several months but hardly any reported cases have arisen stating a disease that has been transmitted by leeches. Leeches aren’t dangerous by nature, but their appearance has been known to creep out many.

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