Are Leech Bites Dangerous?

Leech bites can cause severe allergic reactions in individuals who are sensitive to the proteins released when leeches attach themselves to human skin. Leech bites can also cause infection if the leech is pulled off the skin in a hasty fashion with its jaw bones remaining lodged in the skin.

According to Austin Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, leech allergy symptoms include red blotches on the skin, itching, feeling light-headed and breathing difficulty. Additional symptoms include swelling around the lips and eyes. It is important for anyone experiencing these symptoms following a leech bite to immediately seek medical attention, as anaphylactic shock,is a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal.

The Australian Venom Research Unit recommends using salt or vinegar to remove attached leeches, as these natural ingredients help leeches unattach themselves from the skin without pulling or squeezing. Venomous leeches can be quite dangerous. Pulling or squeezing the leech can cause the venom to travel deep into the wound site. Leeches can also be removed with an extinguished match head that is still hot. Applying pressure to the area can help minimize bleeding. It is also important to apply antiseptic to the area in order to minimize the chance of infection. If symptoms of infection such as redness or swelling occur after treating the bite, it is important to seek medical attention.