Leechy Affairs

Leeches are earthworm-like looking creatures. They are shades of brown and black, have segments on the body and suckers at the ends. Leeches love blood and the moment they find a host (humans or animals), they attach themselves to the skin with their sucker and start feeding on blood. Interestingly, we all know that our blood clots when we have an exposed wound, but leeches secrete a peptide called Hirudin which prevents our blood from clotting. That way, they get to feed on a fresh and constant supply of blood! Leeches usually fall off on their own when they have had their fill! Sounds gross? Well, as luck would have it for leech haters, many forests in South India are flooded with leeches.

Leech bites are often not felt. Only when you suddenly see blood spilling out of your toe or feet, you suddenly realise you have been attacked by those squirmy worms!

Image 1: I remember once going into the forests of Agumbe and despite our efforts to keep leeches at bay, they had found their way into our shoes and socks and led to a bloody episode. In the above photo, you would be surprised to know that the one who wore chappals inside the forest escaped with no bites (right side)… A mystery I have not been able to solve till date!
My feet are the ones in the bottom of the frame.
Image 2: Here is my friend’s feet with an unusually large number of leeches latching on. Usually, leech bites are not a concern. But excessive bites which are untended to, over long periods of time, can lead to chronic symptoms like itchy rash and possible skin infections.

Leeches not just get into socks but also your shirts and pants. So its good take precautions when traversing through dense jungles. My personal record of removing leeches from my body on a single evening stands at 62.

Image: One very easy way to prevent leeches from getting on to you is by using leech socks. They are long bag-like socks which you wear over your regular socks. The leech socks are tied just below the knee. So even if a leech manages to enter into your leech socks, they still have to get through your pants, and then your regular socks. You can see me wearing leech socks in this photo.

In addition to that, using salt and tobacco powder (we called it leech pudi… which means leech powder!!!) are super effective ways to stun or paralyze the leeches (I don’t know if the leeches die because of this).

Check out these videos!

Video: How many leeches can you count on my shoes?
Video: Puff-puff and the leeches fall off! Using tobacco powder to fend off leeches.

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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