Stunning Facts Preppers Need to Know About Leeches in 3 Min

removing leeches

Warning: Some of the images shown were taken at the time of surgery and are graphic. You might want to skip this post if you have a weak stomach.

For years it’s been believed leeches do not carry diseases capable of infecting humans. This is slowly changing. While rare, infections and complications do occur. We will discuss which fish antibiotics to use in those cases, as well as how to remove leeches and treat the prolonged bleeding caused by their bites.

removing leeches

Leeches are acquired when wading through swamps, lakes and stagnate water. It’s true they carry parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Fortunately the parasites cannot survive in humans, and so they are not felt to present a danger to us. This leaves viruses and bacteria.

Viruses can only be transmitted if the leech has previously fed on an infected person, then feeds on you. While possible, this scenario seems unlikely. That leaves bacteria, and currently there seems to be only one of real concern.

The bacteria is called Aeromonas hydrophila, and it seems to be limited to medicinal leeches used in hospitals. The organism is usually killed by Ciprofloxin (or “Fish Flox” for those familiar with fish antibiotics). Recent reports indicate the bacteria may be growing resistant to this treatment, but it’s unlikely to be a concern for preppers. It seems to be occurring only in leech populations used in medical procedures.

The Rare and Stunning Complications

A case report from 2011 involved a leech making it’s way into a child’s abdomen, nearly causing the child to bleed to death:

“An intraperitoneal (inside the abdomen) leech, which entered through vagina and uterus in a 2-year-old girl is reported. The child presented with intraperitoneal hemorrhage and shock. A leech inside the peritoneal cavity has never been reported in the literature.” – Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons

intraabdominal leech

Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, Vol. 16, No. 4, October-December, 2011, pp. 155-157

How to Remove Leeches

The following is adapted from a great site well worth visiting:
“If you are bitten by a leech and are compelled to remove it before it has had its full (leeches drop off on their own when they are done feeding), you can do so by following these steps:

  1. Identify the anterior (oral) sucker which will be found at the small end of the leech.
  2. Put your finger on your skin adjacent to the oral sucker
  3. Gently but firmly slide your finger toward the wound where the leech is feeding. Using your fingernail, push the sucker sideways away from your skin.
  4. Once you have dislodged the oral sucker, quickly detach the posterior (rear) sucker (the fat end of the leech). Try flicking the leech or proding with your fingernail. As you work to remove the leech, it will attempt to reattach itself.
  5. Keep the wound clean — minor cuts in tropical climates can quickly become infected. The leech itself is not poisonous. The wound will itch as it heals.

NOTE: Is it generally 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.

In the case that a leech invades an orifice like your nose, ear, or mouth you have a slightly more serious problem since the leach will expand as it fills with blood. If you have access to strong (drinkable) alcohol or hydrogen peroxide you can try gargling (if the leech is in your mouth). Worst case scenario you may have to puncture the leech with a sharp object. – See more at:


How to Remove Leeches – Video (6 Minutes):

Bleeding is a Preppers Main Concern

Leeches secrete an anticoagulant called Hirudin from their salivary glands. This keeps your blood from clotting until it arrives in their stomachs. It also means you should expect the wounds caused by their bites to continue bleeding for a prolonged periods of time, as compared to those caused by lacerations.

leeches and bleeding

Treating Bleeding

Place heavy 4×4 gauze over the bites and secure them in place with Coban (Vetrap) or an ACE Bandage to provide constant pressure.

ACE Bandage


Popular among Special Forces during the Vietnam War were women’s nylons. Operators would wear them to prevent leeches from attaching to their legs, as they waded through watery pools of stuff I don’t even want to think about. Given the number of survival uses of nylons, it might be a good idea to drop some in your kit, particularly if you live in an area where leeches are found.

nylons for leeches


Take Home Message: If you get a skin infection from a leech, Fish Flox or Ciprofloxin will usually treat it, but such infections are rare. Prolonged bleeding from the bite sites are of most concern to preppers. In those instances, apply a pressure dressing, and expect you’ll need to change it frequently for a few hours.

To learn more please click on the Survival Medicine Book image below:

Zombie Apocalypse

Keywords: leeches, removing leeches, fish antibiotics, survival medicine, fish flox, Hirudin, treating bleeding, Ciprofloxin

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