If you have ever been hiking in the woods, swimming in a body of water, or seen the movie Stand By Me, then there’s an excellent chance you know what a leech is. Leeches are one of those creatures that get a bad rap. Why do they get a bad rap? Simple, because they’re ugly. You might think that the outdoorsy type wouldn’t care about ugly creatures, but leeches are not a favorite of many people. That said, if you know how to deal with them, they’re harmless.
Most people who attempt to remove a leech will use salt, lemon juice, a cigarette, a lighter, shampoo, salt, and many other quirky items. What they don’t realize is that they’re actually taking a harmless event and making it into a much more dangerous one.
To put it simply, if you allow the leech to suck your blood and have its fill for twenty minutes or so, it will drop off of you once it’s done. This is so it can digest. The blood it takes from you will have no affect on you at all, yet will have the potential to feed the leech for months. If you get squeamish by the site of leeches, just look away as they’re feeding, or you can hold someone’s hand. Once they’re gone, you can take a shower. No harm done.
If you take one of the unadvised approached to removing a leech – lighter, shampoo, salt, etc. – you will have taken yourself from a harmless situation to a potentially harmful one. The reason for this is because a leech will regurgitate (or vomit) back into your bloodstream, which can lead to dangerous infections. It’s better to be ‘grossed out’ and wait for the leech to complete its meal than to panic and cause potential harm to yourself. You’ll be thankful for being patient later, and possibly even be proud of yourself for being so brave.
It’s important to note that leeches do not carry and diseases. In addition to that, their bites don’t even hurt because of an anesthetic they release while biting. That said, if the thought of them on your skin still bothers you then make sure you take necessary steps to avoid the problem in the first place. If you’re heading into the brush or anywhere where there is water, make sure you cover up thoroughly. Insect repellent will also be helpful. They find you based on odor and sound vibrations. If they get a whiff of the insect repellent, there’s a less likely chance they will come after you. It’s also important to keep on the move. If you stand still, they will have a better chance of latching on to you. Keep in mind, they’re not fast creatures. If you’re constantly moving, they will have zero chance of catching you.
If a leech does happen to get you and you just can’t stand the thought of having a leech suck on your blood for twenty minutes, there is another option. You can remove the leech safely. The first thing you need to do is locate the mouth of the leech, which will be on the smaller end. Once you locate the mouth, push it away from your skin in a sideways motion. It’s best to use your fingernail. Before the leech has a chance to reattach itself – which it will attempt to do – flick the rear end (larger end) of the leech from your skin. When you go through this process you want to be gentle yet firm at the same time. It should all be done within five seconds.
While a leech’s bits can’t harm you, the wound that it leaves can. It’s important to treat the wound as soon as possible so it doesn’t get infected. The odds of you getting infected will have a lot to do with what part of the world you’re in, but an infection is still possible anywhere and it’s important to take all necessary safety precautions.
If you happen to have a leech latch onto you in an orifice or private area, consider getting help to remove it. If it a leech somehow gets in your mouth (highly unlikely), you can gargle drinking water to get it out.
As stated earlier, if you can stomach it, it’s best to let the leech detach on its own once it has competed its meal.