How to avoid leeches while trekking in the jungle

While trekking in the jungle, we may encounter leeches. Leeches bear a resemblance to worms but are smaller in size. They live mainly in humid areas such as tropical jungles, streams, and ponds. They do not live in the water and often hide between rocks, on the ground, or on leaves. Leeches are active mainly at night and after rain.

When hungry for blood, a leech is 2 - 4 cm long, has a flat body, and can stretch flexibly. When leeches have sucked enough blood, they can be 8-10 times heavier than their original body weight, causing their bodies to enlarge abnormally, especially in the head area. A leech bite is usually painless and carries no pathogens but can cause bleeding.

While leeches do not have directly harmful toxins, foresters still need to be very careful.

Are leeches poisonous?

Leeches are not poisonous and do not carry viruses or parasites, but a leech bite can cause discomfort. When they bite, they secrete an anticoagulant from their saliva. The anticoagulant is not poisonous, but it can make the wound bleed longer than usual and cause itching. Some individuals may negatively react to this anticoagulant, leading to swollen, itchy skin.

Because leeches live in humid environments and are exposed to dirt and bacteria, the wound caused by a leech bite can quickly become infected if it is not treated properly. If not detected early, a leech can crawl into particularly dangerous places on the human body, such as the eyes, nose, and ears, making it extremely difficult to remove.

Therefore, even though leeches are not poisonous, you must be aware and know how to remove the leech bite properly and promptly.

How to avoid leeches while trekking

  • Wear long clothes and high-neck shoes: To reduce the risk of direct leech bites, wear long clothes, high-neck trekking shoes, and thick socks. A simple but effective trick to avoid leeches is to wear high socks and then tuck the pants inside the socks. This will help prevent leeches from crawling from the shoes up into the pants.
  • Use insect repellent: There are insect repellents containing DEET or DEP available at the pharmacy. In addition, you can use soap, eucalyptus oil, salt, and lime to prevent leeches.
  • Check your body and clothes regularly: Regularly check your clothes, gloves, and body to detect and remove leeches promptly.
  • Avoid sitting or lying directly on the ground: Muddy ground with lots of dry leaves is where leeches often hide. If you must sit and rest, choose a high and dry position for easy checking around. If it rains, do not stop to rest because leeches are more active during rain.
  • Go in groups: This allows each member to detect and remove leeches more effectively.
  • Use a bug-proof tent: If you need to camp overnight in the jungle, choose a tent with a bug-proof net. Make sure the ground where the tent is set up is dry and free of dry leaves. Spray insect repellent around and inside the tent. Remember to check the tent before entering.

Wearing long pants, closed-toe shoes, and thick socks is one way to prevent leech bites.

How to remove leeches once bitten

When biting, leeches secrete a local anticoagulant that keeps the bite site continuously bleeding. It is important to remove leeches properly to stop bleeding and minimize discomfort.

First, DO NOT just pull it out because a leech bite can tear the skin. Instead, spray insect repellants like Remos or alcohol (70%) on the area where the leeches are, and they will fall.

After the leeches fall, wash the wound with water and soap to remove dirt. Then, apply antiseptic to prevent infection. If the wound continues to bleed, use a bandage to cover it.

During an Oxalis tour, please stay calm if you detect any leech bite on your body. Let your tour guide or safety assistant know about your situation so that they can help you remove the leech bite.

The Oxalis Experience.

You may like

Whether you prefer long treks, camping in a cave, sleeping under the stars in the jungle, swimming underground in river caves, explore the huge dry caves or just taking an exploratory day trip, Oxalis Adventure Tours can provide the right amount of adventure just for you.

Multi-day packages

Overnight tours

Day tours

Family tours