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ALL YOU NEED TO NEED KNOW ABOUT LEECHES


By: Neha June 06, 2017
 Here is a small summary of our encounters with leeches for many years, our takeaways and observations of how people generally react and what they can change to get minimum leech exposure during their adventure.
 
The majestic Western Ghats are the pride of not just India but the entire world as they are part of UNESCO world heritage sites and encompass all forms all life including the over emphasized hermaphrodites called Leeches. Just the way one finds mosquitoes in the city life, we have leeches in the forests. Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea. Leeches, are usually found in moist habitats, such as rain forests or wet coastal forests, occurring mostly in damp areas. Leeches are usually attracted to warm blooded passers- by. 
 
So when it comes to trekking in the Western Ghats that too in monsoons we always have this question in mind, will I encounter a leech? And, the answer is yes. If you are lucky enough you will not even get one leech bite but sometimes we cannot avoid them but this should not stop us exploring the beautiful mountains, enjoying the astounding views of lush green meadows or getting the chance to actually pass through the clouds. 

WHAT TO DO WHEN AND AFTER A LEECH BITES

Leech bites are mostly painless and accompanied by secretion of an anticoagulant. So the first clue to their presence may be a red stain on your socks, clothing or in your hiking boots.
 
If you do find a leech attached to you, don't pull it off, as the mouth parts can remain under your skin causing infection. Remember not to directly pull the leech if it is already sucking your blood, this will make you bleed even more.


1. Don’t Panic: Leeches could be not so pleasant to some but they are a part of mother nature just like us. They have the right to food just like us. 
 
2. Right Way of Removal: Slide the body of the leech off with your fingernail. Gently remove the suckers from the skin. This sliding motion pushes the leech’s sucker off instead of pulling it, reducing the damage its teeth can do to your skin and minimizing the chances of reattaching. Flick the leech away before it bites again and gets reattached. Dispose of the leech away after you have detached it. 


 3. Cleaning: At the end of the trek, you can identify the exact bite area and once the bleeding has slowed, gently apply some antibacterial ointment or coconut oil and place a band-aid over the wound after softly cleaning the area.
 
4. You can apply some tobacco powder with castor oil or turmeric. Apply antiseptic to the skin until it has healed to reduce the eventual itching.

5.Try not to scratch the bite area, as this may delay the healing process and it might leave a scar if rigorously scratched.

 HOW TO PREVENT A LEECH BITE:
 
1. Tuck your pants into your socks: This will prevent them from crawling to your legs or ankles. Cover yourself well so it doesn't give any exposure of your body. Also, tuck your shirt into your pants.
 
2. Some Local Remedies: Dettol, tobacco powder + castor oil, Odomos(mosquito repellent and spray onto your socks and shoes).
 
Say ' NO' to salt: Many traditional remedies for removing leeches involve 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 bring up the contents of its stomach back into the bite wound as it detaches. This can cause an infection.
 
3. Keep walking and not lean on anything:  If you want to take a rest, look for an open area where there is direct sunlight, leeches do not exist in hot and dry areas.
 
4. Wear double layered socks: This usually helps and prevents leeches from biting.
 
5. Make sure you don't stop at one place to remove all the leeches: A very common phenomenon we have noticed is that people usually stop at one place and remove all the leeches they have. The more time they spend at a certain place the more chances there are that the leeches might re-attach themselves. Do not spend a lot of time at one place.
 
6. Look for a cleaner place to stop: We have also seen people to stop no matter where they are as soon as they spot a leech on their shoes without realizing that if they could already be in a leech infested area. Till the time you feel you are not out the said area, you can gently stomp your feet while you walk and reach a safe area.
 
7. The contrast of apparel: Leeches are usually in the shades of brown. You can wear light coloured socks for you to easily spot them if they reach your socks.
  
MYTHS ABOUT LEECHES

1. Leech Bites Are Poisonous:  No!

2. Let The Leech Suck The Blood Till It Is Full: How a leech essentially works is that it stops the blood from clotting so that it can feast on it with ease. So the longer it sucks the blood, the longer it will take for the clotting mechanism to come back. This is usually not very long.

3. Leech Bite Takes My Impure Blood And Leaves Me With Just Pure Blood, So It Is Good: Not really, blood is blood. It is the purpose of the heart to make sure that the impure blood gets converted to pure blood.

4. Leech Bites Are Poisonous Salt Is The Best Way To Deal With Leeches: Again, nope. This is one of the most common notions we hear about leeches. So technically when you put salt on a leech and it is on you then because of osmosis the fluids from the leech enter our body through the bite and hence is not the best solution for leeches.
 
GET BEYOND LIMITS

Having shared the entire information above we feel that the common notion of being afraid of leeches needs to be broken as all of us are outdoor enthusiasts who have the will to Get Beyond Limits no matter what! Rather than contemplating how the situation might be from the city, we feel it is best to get that one leech experience and lifelong live in limitless courage in front of leeches. They say that trekking in the Western Ghats is not complete without at least one such bite from leeches. If the intent is to connect with nature then they are no less of nature.

One with the will to Get Beyond Limits the obstacle of Leeches enjoys:

1. Absolute lush green beauty of the western ghats. 


2. Forests as active and dense as they can be.


3. Waterfalls in full swing.


4. Breathtaking views to capture in your camera.


5. With the water content in the clouds, the clouds tend to come get lower. Often one get the chance to pass through the clouds!






Tags: clouds , western ghats , monsoon treks , leeches , remedy

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