INFORMATION REQUIRED ABOUT LEECHES WHILE TREKKING IN DENSE JUNGLE
As we trek thru the dense jungle we usually encounter leeches on our way.. Not all but many are scared of the tiny creature. Here is some information on how to avoid leech bites and how to react to it, just in case a leech sticks to your skin.
The majestic Western Ghats are the pride of not just India but the entire world as they are a part of UNESCO world heritage sites and encompass all forms including the over emphasized hermaphrodites called Leeches. As there are mosquitoes in every city, it is common to find Leeches in Jungles where sunlight doesn’t penetrate easily in presence of stagnant water. Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea.
Almost 700 species of leeches are currently recognized, of which some 100 are marine, 90 terrestrial and the remainder in freshwater. Leeches are usually found in stagnant water such as rain forests in damp areas. Leeches identify their prey wiith the warm blood that passes by in the area – be it an animal or a human.
Only certain species of leeches feed on blood, and not all species can bite; 90% of them feed solely on decomposing bodies and open wounds of amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl, fish, and mammals. A leech attaches itself when it bites, and it will stay attached until it becomes full, at which point it falls off to digest. Due to the hirudin secreted, bites may bleed more than a normal wound after the leech is removed.
When planning to trek in Monsoons in Dense Jungles, we usually ask ourselves – Will I encounter a Leech Bite??
Usually the answer is YES. But being scared of Leeches cannot stop us from exploring the beautiful western ghats.
THINGS TO DO AFTER A LEECH BITES?
How long did you take to realize that you have a leech on your skin? Leech bites are painless and only realized after you find blood stains on your clothes. So once you find a leech on do the following things:
- Dont pull off the leech directly as the mouth part remains under the skin causing infection. Pulling the leech directly will make you bleed even more. Leeches have anticoagulant enzymes that cause blood to flow freely. If the bite area continues to bleed after you remove the leech (or after it falls off), apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze until the bleeding stops.
2. Dont Panic as there are methods to remove the stuck leeches; slide the body of the leech with your fingernail, trying to gently remove the sucker from the skin. The sliding motion pushes the sucker of the Leech off instead of pulling it, reducing the damage its teeth can do to your skin. Flick the leech before it bites again.
3. Leeches can leave a small wound where they were attached to your body. Cleaning the wound with clean water and apply anti bacterial Ointment or coconut oil. You can place a band-aid after cleaning it.
THINGS TO AVOID WHEN YOU HAVE A LEECH BITE
Many traditional remedies for removing leeches involve putting a match or flame to the leech’s body, or pouring salt, alcohol, vinegar, or other things on the leech. While this will likely cause the leech to detach itself from your body, it may regurgitate the contents of its stomach back into the bite wound as it detaches. This can cause an infection.
THINGS TO DO, TO AVOID A LEECH BITE
- Local Remedies : Shampoo, Dettol, Tobacco Powder + Castor Oil, Odomos etc can be applied on the feet, or sprayed on the shoes and socks. It is believed that this acts as a Leech repellent.
- Tucking your trekking trousers in your socks : This will prevent the leech to crawl up above ankles. Dont keep any body parts open or exposed for leech bites.
- Do not lean on anything : While trekking you might feel like relaxing on a stone or resting on a tree. Avoid relaxing until you have reached an open area and can find a comfortable area. Keep walking so that leeches do not get an opportunity to stick to you.
- Avoid water patches : Usually while trekking avoid walking/jumping in to puddles. Try walking on muddy/rocky parts of the jungle.
- Wear double layered socks : Helps leeches reach your skin. Also try wearing light colored socks, so that if there is a leech bite, the leech can be identified due to the color contrast.
SOME MYTHS ABOUT LEECHES
Leech Bites are poisonous : No
Let the Leech suck the blood until it is full : Even if the leech falls after it is full, the blood clotting doesnt stop. So it is advisable to detach the leech once spotted.
Salt is the best solution to Leech Bite: When you put salt on leech while it is sucking the blood, then the fluids from the leech enter your body thru the bite and can cause infection or serious damage.