Leeches are the segmented parasites. Their looks have very resembled the earthworms which are also soft, muscular and have segmented bodies in which they can increase their size or can contract their body. know Leech bite awareness and treatments on hiking and trekking.
Leeches belong to the group of hermaphrodites and have suckers at both ends of the body.
In the ancient time leeches were used to extract blood from the patient who is hypertensive. Now in modern times, leeches are used to treat many disease conditions of joints and for those who are suffering from blood clotting disorders.
Everyone during their summer vacation needs a break. Some people decide to go in hills to get rid of hot weather while some liked to utilize these vacations by some activities like rafting, camping, trekking, and hiking.
Performing these activities can give to an infinite amount of fun, enjoyment, excitement and you come closer to the beautiful nature which you haven’t seen yet. But with the fun and all, there is some health risk are also present which we generally ignore.
But that doesn’t mean you should not go for fun. Instead, you should know all the information about everything so that your vacations should be safe and healthier.
Table of Contents
Is leech bites are dangerous and infective?
In past history, leeches are used medically in conditions where clotting of blood occurs. Some of the leeches are not harmful while some are very dangerous. It depends upon the number of leeches attacked on you.
Few of the patients may develop skin allergies after a leech bite. The symptoms of those skin allergies are:-
Today in modern world leeches are also used in many medical surgeries as it removes excess blood which can swell and pain.
Leech bites are not dangerous and are also not painful like other parasite bites.
Leeches normally have parasites in their gastrointestinal tract which are harmless as they cannot live on human beings. Bites can be infective if they carry some bacteria, viruses, or parasites from the previous suckers, which get transmitted to you via leeches.
If you get attacked by leech than don’t pull off the leech forcefully, it can cause mouthparts of the leech to remain under the skin which can result in inflammation, swelling, and in many cases, is shown the formation of slow healing granuloma.
For treating this allergy you can go with natural remedies if you don’t have moisturizer
*Olive oil *Neem oil *Sunflower oil *Aloe Vera oil
How leech can get on your body while hiking
Leeches mostly feed on the blood. They are found in freshwater lakes and ponds. Human beings do not like leeches at all because of its unattractive appearance and on the fact that leeches feed on human blood. Leeches are the worm which can detect their prey through their vibrations. These vibrations make them alert and they started to swim very fast to get attached to their host for feed.
Leeches get attached to their prey by mouth and the tail. They are about one centimeter long but the bloodsuckers leeches are about ten centimeters long when they attain maturity.
How leeches attach through the mouth:-
All the feeding for the leeches is done through the mouth and they use their jaws to get attached to their host. They have sharp teeth in their mouth sucker which they use to sink in and to attach to its prey to get feed. After attaching the leech releases an anticoagulant known as hirudin which causes host blood to stop clotting. As the leeches get full they unlock themselves from the host and drop down.
How leeches attach through tail:-
As the leeches have two suckers, another sucker is present in their tail which also helps the leeches to get attached to their host. This is also known as a posterior sucker.
This posteriors sucker help the leech to move fast in the water and also helps leeches to climb on the host’s leg. When the leech finds a protected area on the host’s leg, then it attaches its jaw from the mouth to start sucking blood. So posterior suckers are only to get attached to the host not for sucking blood.
While hiking the person should be very while going through the freshwaters and ponds as the leeches release an anesthetic product which makes the person unaware that the leeches are attached to their body parts and has started sucking blood. They attached to the body for a long time because their digestion for the blood is slow. So once they get full by sucking blood they can live for several months on one feeding.
Once they started sucking blood, their body size gets larger which can be five times bigger than the original size. So it is advised before you go for hiking covered yourself fully as it will protect you from leech bite.
How to avoid leech contact?
If you get attached with leeches than following procedures will help you to get rid of leeches:-
- Apply salt on the part where the leeches are attached. Salt will easily wash away the leeches.
- To prevent yourself from leeches while hiking than prepare a solution using coconut oil with tobacco. Mix it well then apply this oil all over the body especially those parts which are more exposed.
- Another mixture can be prepared with tobacco. Mix the mosquito’s repellant cream with tobacco and apply it on the body parts. This works because leeches don’t like the smell of tobacco.
- If present wear leech socks (trail-gaiter)
- Don’t stop on any plants or in the water while hiking, so keep walking
- If leech gets attached to you and doesn’t stop to remove it immediately at that area, as there are more chances for being attacked by other leeches also.
- Get covered fully
- If leech socks are not available then you can also use ladies knee-length stockings
- You can also use dettol as strong smell also repels the leeches
First aid after a Leech bite
Leech bite should be taken seriously. The following procedure should be followed for the first aid after a leech bite.
- First of all, remove all the leeches attached to your skin.
- Then wash the area properly with soap and water.
- Try to keep the wounded part clean.
- Apply the ice pack on the affected part as it will reduce the pain and the swelling.
If you are healthy enough then it will heal on its own, just you have to keep the part clean. Some of the persons are allergic to the leech bite. They will have some irritations and itching on the affected part.
If the bite turns into an ulcer or infection present or you may start having itchy rashes, red blotches, swelling in your lips and eyes, difficulty in breathing, fainting than call for an emergency as these are the signs for emergency treatment.
Emergency action after a leech bite
If you are healthy and got one leech bite than probably you will have some bleeding which will get stop and will heal rapidly.
But if the bleeding from the leech bite persists for more than seven to ten hours and as long as seven days than it gives attention to consulting to the doctor.
This can be the result of severe infection produced by bacteria, viruses, and parasites transferred to the skin from the leech bite. This can be shown in the form of inflammation or suppuration, ulcers, or slow healing granuloma.
If you are allergic to the leech bite that doesn’t forget to call the emergency number as it can be dangerous and even can lead to death if medical facilities don’t give at the right time.
This occurs due to swelling of epiglottis due to which the person is not able to breathe, the person will have suffocative attacks, and the whole body will be swollen. As this situation requires emergency treatment.
Internal organ bleeding due to leech bite is uncommon and rare. Even any serious complication due leech bite is not present till date. But in case leech bite present in any internal organ, then it will produce the fatal condition. Bite present in sites like nose, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, rectum, and bladder is found sporadically in literature.
Vaginal bleeding due to leech bite is also uncommon and is even rarer.
Emergency for leech bite can be due to two causes:-
- Due to mechanical obstruction to any vital organ
- In case of severe bleeding
Precaution during treatment
Consideration following points in case of leech bite.
- As you will have severe itching at the affected part, but do not scratch that part. As scratching of that part will delay in healing and formation of new healthy cells.
- When you under treatment for the leech bite don’t get panic after seeing your affected skin. Don’t worry leeches don’t carry any poisons.
- Leeches releases anticoagulant at the bite area which causes continuous bleeding from that affected part. Put a piece of paper and bleeding will stop after sometimes.
- Apply antiseptic cream to prevent further infection
Next treatment after first aid
The most important next treatment for the leech bite is never let the leech bite area dry, otherwise, it will turn into eczema.
Always apply moisturizer on that part never leave it dry.
You can also use Cetaphil as a cream or moisturizer to prevent it from dryness. Applying this cream will give you result within a week even if the leech bite is older.
In case if the leech bite is infected with the fungal infection and severe itching is present then using the cream candid B this will cure the fungal infection.
Why we should be careful on a hike?
Those who want to come closer to nature; they select hiking for utilizing their vacations. But with the fun, there are various things which should be kept in the mind, for example, while hiking you can get injured.
For which you have to keep the first aid box with you. There are many common injuries that can occur during hiking, in which the most common and dangerous is leech bite. Other injuries include:-
- Twisted ankle
- Bug Bites
- Minor Scrapes
These injuries may become sometimes dangerous. But if the proper care has taken then you can overcome these injuries. Here are the following advice which you should keep in mind while going for the hiking:-
Go hiking at the fitness level in which you and your friend are comfortable.
Hiking includes the level from very easy to extreme hardship. So choose the hiking trail which is appropriate to everyone who is with you especially if you bringing your children and dogs along with you. So decide the following things before going:-
- Length of hike
- Technical skills
Always stay on the hiking trail on which you are going
It is very important to always stay on the trail during your hiking as it is very safe for you. On difficult, there is a risk of getting lost. You may come in contact with many dangerous plants and animals and even leeches can even bite you.
While hiking you should learn how to use a compass and how to read maps
While going on hiking and if you have a mobile phone with you, then make up your mind that your mobile phone will not always there for your help. You might not be in the network all the time during hiking but you can use mobile-only in case of emergency.
Instead of going with the GPS, brush up your brain to make it learn how to use a compass and how to know that where are you on the map.
Always wear hiking gear
If you have selected to go on a difficult hiking trail, then don’t forget to wear sneakers or you may need to have a pair of hiking boots with you. Maybe they are expensive but they will protect you from getting injured and even they will protect your ankle from twisted ankles.
Protect your skin from harmful sun rays
While going on hiking you will be exposed to harmful sun radiations which will cause sunburn on your skin. To protect your skin from sunburn by applying sunscreen of SPF 50 or more. As higher SPF is said to be more effective and lower SPF.
In cloudy weather do apply sunscreen as there are still chances of having a sunburn. If your sweat, apply sunscreen again and again as sweating removes the covering of sunscreen. In case sunburn appears and still you are in exposure to sun rays it may convert in cancer of the skin.
Use insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and ticks away
During hiking, mosquitoes and ticks bites are always present. So you have been very careful of mosquitoes and ticks while hiking as they can cause very serious diseases.
Use insect repellent, as it contains DEET which will prevent you from mosquitoes and bugs bites and therefore prevent you from serious disease conditions.
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated while hiking
It is very important to stay hydrated during hiking. Drink about one liter of water every two hours. Keep your water bottles with you. If you have decided to go in the background, then you have to filter the water before drinking.
Remain aware of the wildlife around you and stay alert
Before going for hiking you should collect all the information about the place including the animals which can be present there and can create dangerous situations for you.
Get knowledge of the poisonous plant of that area
Before going for hiking you should know which plants are present in that area which can be dangerous. We advised not to eat any berries and fruits of that area as it can produce a fatal situation for you.
Give information about your location to someone that where are going and what can be your probable location
You should tell at least two of the closed person on which you can trust that where are you going and at what time you will reach after hiking. Give a number of others who are with you while hiking so that if you didn’t come at the time you have given, another person can reach you at least via call or sending messages.
Besides this, there are some other advice which the person should keep in the mind are:-
- Keep you camp clean from inner and outer sides
- Make your camp before the night appears
- Protect yourself from a dangerous environment containing harmful airs
- Learn for making proper, maintain and extinguish campfires
When going hiking or trekking, the only thing which comes in the mind is all about fun, excitement. These activities give a break from a heavy workload, setting your mind free for living life, enjoying the beauty of nature.
But sometimes this fun becomes dangerous and seeks medical emergencies. So next time whenever you have decided to go hiking, take your first aid box with you and keep the knowledge of all the areas where you will be going. Have a Happy Hiking.
Please review this article “Leech bite awareness and treatments on hiking and trekking”.
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