Blood Suckers and Leeches

If you swim or boat or fish in rivers or other mucky in places areas, you have probably encountered blood suckers. Go to fullsize imageMedically, they are called leeches.  Around here we remove them by pouring salt on them.  If they don’t come off on their own in a short time, they can be removed by just picking them off after the salt has been on them for a while.  You can pull them off without salt but they inject an anti-coagulant into you and so you will bleed quite a bit.  I looked them up on wikipedia to see what it said and learned that salt may not be the best option.  I’ll quote part of the article but if you want more info.  you will have to look them up yourself.

Leech bites according to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeches

Effects

A Borneo leech. Note how the leech curls and fattens as it fills with blood.

A Borneo leech. Note how the leech curls and fattens as it fills with blood.

Though all species of leeches feed on blood, not all species can bite; 90% of them solely feed off decomposing bodies and open wounds of amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl, fish, and mammals (including, but not limited to, humans). A leech attaches itself when it bites, and it will stay attached until it has had its fill of blood. Due to an anticoagulant (hirudin) that leeches secrete, bites may bleed more than a normal wound after the leech is removed. The effect of the anticoagulant will wear off several hours after the leech is removed and the wound is cleaned.

Leeches normally carry parasites in their digestive tract which cannot survive in humans and do not pose a threat. However, bacteria, viruses, and parasites from previous blood sources can survive within a leech for months, and may be retransmitted to humans. A study found both HIV and hepatitis B in African leeches from Cameroon.[2]

Removal

One recommended method of removal is using a fingernail to break the seal of the oral sucker at the anterior end (the smaller, thinner end) of the leech, repeating with the posterior end, then flicking the leech away. As the fingernail is pushed along the person’s skin against the leech, the suction of sucker’s seal is broken, at which point the leech should detach its jaws.[3][4]

A common but medically inadvisable technique to remove a leech is to apply a flame, a lit cigarette, salt, soap, or a caustic chemical such as alcohol, vinegar, lemon juice, insect repellent, heat rub, or certain carbonated drinks. These cause the leech to regurgitate its stomach contents into the wound and quickly detach. The vomit may carry disease and increases the risk of infection.[3][4][5]

Simply pulling a leech off by grasping it can also cause regurgitation, and adds risks of further tearing the wound, and leaving parts of the leech’s jaw in the wound, which can also increase the risk of infection.

An externally attached leech will detach and fall off on its own when it is satiated on blood, usually in about 20 minutes (but will stay there for as long as it can),[5] while internal attachments, such as nasal passage or vaginal attachments, are more likely to require medical intervention.[6][7].

Treatment

After removal or detachment, the wound should be cleaned with soap and water, and bandaged. Bleeding may continue for some time, due to the leech’s anti-clotting enzyme. Applying pressure can reduce bleeding, although blood loss from a single bite is not dangerous. The wound normally itches as it heals, but should not be scratched as this may complicate healing and introduce other infections. An antihistamine can reduce itching, and applying a cold pack can reduce pain or swelling.

Some people suffer severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions from leech bites, and require urgent medical care. Symptoms include red blotches or an itchy rash over the body, swelling away from the bitten area (especially around the lips or eyes), feeling faint or dizzy, and difficulty breathing.[5]

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