You are unlikely to incur a bite by one of the blood sucking leeches of the
Southwest. (See Leeches of the Southwest for more information.) If bitten, you
are even less likely to sustain significant skin damage or contract a disease.
Nevertheless, to minimize risk, you will want to dislodge the predator and treat
Removal of the Leech
"Find the skinny end [the head end] and use your
finger or fingernail to push it sideways off the bite point."
Mark Siddall in the NOVA Science Internet site.
To remove a leach from its hold, "Find the skinny end [the head end]
and use your finger or fingernail to push it sideways off the bite point," said
authority Mark Siddall in the NOVA Science Internet site. "Once it's released,
you will bleed from the wound. That's okay. The bleeding is normal and is caused
by the anticoagulants the leech puts in the wound. Then, just get it to release
the fat end the same way."
You should avoid "remedies" such as simply pulling the leech from
its moorings; plying it with salt, insect repellent, shampoo or vinegar; or heating
it with a smoldering match, grass stem or cigarette. These techniques might cause
the leech to discharge the contents of its gut, including bacteria, into the
bite. This might cause complications such as localized infection or even
Treatment of a Leech Bite
After you remove the leech, you should promptly wash the wound with soap
and water, according to the Austin Health Internet site. Keep the wound clean.
Apply a cold pack should you have pain or swelling.
You could have some irritation and itching, but you should have no further
problems if you have good health and no leech allergies. However, if you experience
symptoms such as an ulcer, infection, itchy rash, red blotches, swelling (especially
around your lips and eyes), faintness or breathing difficulties, seek medical
Avoiding a Leech Bite
In infested waters, you may find leeches hard to avoid.
In infested waters, you may find leeches hard to avoid. You will attract
them by movement, setting off a persistent effort to explore your body for a "suitable
attachment point," according to the Field Guide to
Venomous and Medically Important Invertebrates Affecting Military Operations.
To reach your skin, "…they
may enter any opening in clothing and have been known to go through eyelets of
boots or through the fabric in loosely woven cloth."
Various authorities suggest that you might discourage leeches by slathering
your body with a strong insect repellent, moisturizer, bath soap, eucalyptus
oil or lemon juice. You might find leech socks the most effective. Tightly
woven (to prevent penetration) and light colored (to enhance leech visibility),
leech socks fit over outer garments, serving as a barrier.
In the BMJ medical publication back in 1994, Anders Baerheim and Hogne Sandvik
said that "Exposure to beer tended to disrupt the leeches' normal behavior..." They
did not comment about the effects on humans' normal behavior.
In any event, you should inspect your body after leaving leech-infested waters,
removing any of the overly friendly predators as promptly as possible.