How to avoid leeches while trekking in Borneo Rainforest?
Have you ever been bitten by a leech and you just realized it after you saw the bleeding? You are unlikely to feel a thing due to the small amount of anesthetic that they inject into the bite area. Then, they insert an anti-coagulant to stop your blood from clotting which allow the leech to suck freely until it gets plump and fall off automatically.
Generally, there’s not a lot to worry about since most of the leeches are harmless and their bite is almost painless. However, finding one of these bloodthirsty worms on your body can be a disturbing experience, but it’s usually not a medical emergency.
Leech lives in mostly damp areas such as streams and rainforests, near the river and there are more leeches during rainy session. The leeches wait on the grass and leaves of the brush to wait for passers, then they will fall onto your boots and crawl all the way up to your socks and burrow into your leg.
So, here’s some of the simple solution (tips) for you!
Here are the 6 Ways to prevent leeches
1) Tuck your shirt and pants seamlessly
As leeches like moist and warm place, it probably more likely to get into those areas which have thinner skin such as armpit, belly, butt and skin between toes. It’s worth checking your body and tuck your shirt into pants and tuck your pants into your boots in order to reduce the chance of the leech getting to your body.
If you’re travelling over leech-infested terrain, you can try wearing long, tucked-in clothing to cover yourself well so that it doesn’t give the blood sucking creature any opening to creep into your body.
2) Wear on an anti-leech sock/football sock
However, there are also some small leeches can get through very small spaces, hence, wearing a leech sock, which is made from tightly woven fabric or durable brushed cotton and it’s pretty effective to prevent the leech from attaching itself by wearing it over your sock and inside your boot.
In this situation, the leeches could not penetrate it and it’s difficult for them to climb up too. Besides, you can also choose the sock with light colored to enhance the visibility of leech.
3) Tobacco leaves
Moreover, you can also get hold of some tobacco leaves where you can buy it from local market and soak them in a small water bottle or a spray bottle and apply it onto your boot and anti-leech sock every once and a while.
The smell of the tobacco could slow down the leeches. Moreover, you can also soak the socks in the tobacco water overnight and dry it up the next day. However, it might be smelly towards non-smokers.
4) Salt, vinegar, lemon
Rubbing the vinegar or salt on your body could help to avoid leech. These is more of a quick fix, but it doesn’t last long, you may need to apply continuously.
5) Strong insect repellent
It is better for you to apply some strong insect repellent to all the exposed skin. Also, you can apply or spray plenty of repellent on to ordinary hiking socks once in a while.
For instance, you can buy insecticide and spray it on the sock and shoe which the leech will die almost instantly the moment it touches your shoe or shock. Or else, you can buy leech hound repellent gel which can discourage leeches.
6) Avoid bathing in areas where they occur
By bathing in the river can easily attract leech, which potentially attack bathers by crawling into the mouth, nostril, eyes or genitals. Other than that, you can also ask the locals for some useful leech-proof ideas, they will be willing to help you.
What to do if you get bitten from leech? How do I get rid?
It might be very uncomfortable or nasty if you discover the leech on your body, but you can’t do anything to get rid of them.
Don’t panic! The most important thing that you need to keep in your mind is that – do not pull, pluck or squeeze it off by force – as the mouth parts can remain under your skin and leave a slowly healing granuloma or permanent scar and also causing infection.
According to the video above, it is suggested to use your fingernail (or else you can use the edge of a knife or credit card) to gently slide over the leech’s anterior sucker where it’s actually biting into your skin to break its suction.
As mentioned before, it will leave the guts in your wound if you pull it off. Hence, it is better to use this sliding motion pushes the leach’s sucker. Due to the anti-coagulant that they inserted which is to stop your blood from clotting, therefore, leech bite will cause your wound to bleed for hour, but it will stop eventually, just treat it as a leech therapy as most of the leech doesn’t carry any disease and poison.
You can wash it with soap and water and apply anti-septic cream on the wound to prevent infection and bandage it. Besides that, keep your wound dry and clean, it will itch for a few days before healed, try not to scratch it.
Other than that, there’s also several alternative ways to remove them such as heat a lighted cigarette or apply repellent, alcohol, lime fruit juice or salt and it will shrivel and drop, or else, just let it finishes its’ meal when the leech becomes grossly swollen it falls off, usually it will fall off after 20 minutes of attachment without any treatment.
If you’re going for a multi-day adventure, make sure you don’t take leeches into your tent, checking is an important part before you go to sleep.
NOTE: Generally, it is not advised to attempt removing a leech by burning with a cigarette; applying mosquito repellent, shampoo, or salt; or pulling at the leech. This can result the leech regurgitating into the wound and causing infection much worse than the leech bite itself
Two common forest leeches that can be found in Malaysia’s rainforest:
Tiger leech (species: Haemadipsa picta)
Tiger leech can extend its body more than 6cm long and can be found from the ground to any bushes that are about human’s waist level or fall from the tree. The tiger leech’s bite is sharp and painful like 10 mosquitoes bite you on the same spot.
Brown leech (species: Haemadipsa zeylanica)
Brown leech is also called ground leech which they usually at the ground level and it is smaller compare to tiger leech, only about 2cm. Unlike tiger leech’s bite, you will feel nothing at all if ground leech bites you due to the anesthetic chemical in its saliva.