How to Remove Leeches

                If you’ve ever been a freshwater pond or river, there’s a chance you’ve been swimming with leeches. In fact, since you’ve clicked on this article it’s likely that you have a leech on your body right now! Let’s get straight to the point and get that sucker off of you. There are just a few steps you need to follow to safely remove a leech. Firstly, understand that leeches are generally harmless and do not pass on any diseases. The only way that a leech can transmit disease is if you panic and remove it incorrectly. If you can handle the wait, a leech will naturally disconnect from your skin after 20-30 minutes. 

Properly Removing Leeches

                There are typically three main incorrect methods that are used to remove leeches. All three of these methods cause the leeches to regurgitate their insides and can lead to infection. Most commonly, people reactively try to yank the leech off their body. This can leave leech teeth stuck under of your skin. Swimmers will also often put a lighter next to a leech or cover it with table salt or alcohol. Both of these can cause the leech to vomit its insides under your skin. 

                The best way to safely remove a leech is using a flat surface such as a credit card, ID, or even your fingernail. First, identify which end is the oral sucker of the leech. This end is usually the narrower of the two. Now using your object of choice, slowly slide in between your skin and leech, steering its head away from your skin. Once the leech is no longer attached to your skin quickly throw or flick it away from you.

Treating Leech Wounds

                The first thing that you want to do after removing a leech is washing off the bite area with clean water. Then, use an alcohol-based wipe or iodine wipe to clean the bite area. Next, apply hydrogen peroxide to the wound to remove any debris stuck under the wound and kill bacteria. As a precautionary extra step, you can apply Neosporin to the wound. Finally, apply a bandage or gauze to help blood clots form and stop future infection. Keep in mind that you may bleed for several hours after the leech is removed and should change bandages frequently. 

Avoiding Leech Bites

                The age-old advice still holds true, prevention is the best medicine. Before entering a freshwater pond or river, look to see if you can find any leeches in the water, and ask yourself if you want to risk getting bit. If you choose enter, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself before going into the water. Apply an insecticide such as Bygone to your body. Wear leech socks if possible, or long socks if not. Tuck your shift into your pants. Apply waterproof sunscreen or moisturizer on any exposed areas of your body. Don’t make herky-jerky movements, these will attract leeches. Soak your socks in water mixed with tobacco leaves the night before. Finally, it should go without saying to not wash your face with nearby water.

For more information on how to remove and treat leech wounds, watch this video below.

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