Cockroaches are more than just pests that infest your home, they can also cause significant harm to your health.
Trying to deal with a roach infestation can cause mental health issues as well as problems from overusing insecticides when trying to eliminate them.
Then there are the toxic bacteria they carry and the allergens they produce, which also make them a serious concern.
Discover the ways roaches are hazardous to your health and why it’s crucial to get rid of them as soon as possible by reading more below.
Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
What Are the Dangers of Cockroaches to Humans?
1. Roaches carry harmful bacteria
Roaches pick up pathogens on their feet and bodies when they crawl through feces, rotting garbage, and decaying yard debris. Some species live in the most unsanitary places, such as sewers.
It stands to reason that they’ll carry some nasty bacteria on them, which is why you don’t want them in your kitchen contaminating everything they crawl on.
The organisms that have been isolated from cockroaches are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasitic worms.
The bacteria (of which there are around 33) carried by roaches include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, Clostridium, and Streptococcus, all of which can make you extremely ill.
The most common symptoms of being exposed to these bacteria are diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever.
Because cockroaches can travel from filthy environments and into our homes, they can potentially spread these bacteria onto your countertops, utensils, food, and whatever else they crawl across.
Along with leaving behind germs from their feet and bodies, these filthy pests also contaminate your home with their fecal droppings and vomit.
Although there is no concrete evidence linking them to disease outbreaks, the World Health Organization states that ‘they may play a supplementary role in the spread of some diseases.’ This basically means that cockroaches have the potential to transmit diseases through contamination and not through biting like other insects.
2. Roaches cause allergies and asthma
A cockroach allergy is a year-round condition where your body has an allergic reaction to proteins in cockroaches.
Many people have allergic reactions to allergens that become airborne when disturbed. The allergens are present in the cockroach’s body, saliva, egg cases, molted skins, and especially their fecal droppings.
It has been identified that Asian, German, Oriental, smokybrown, and American cockroaches can all cause allergic reactions. However, the major allergens are found in the German and American species.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, these are the common cockroach allergy symptoms:
Itchy, red, or watery eyes
Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
Postnasal drip (a flow of mucus from behind your nose into your throat)
Itchy skin or skin rash
Even dead cockroaches can trigger these allergic reactions.
Cockroaches and asthma
Aside from the above, another worrying problem is that the allergens can trigger asthma attacks in those who are not asthmatic or cause it to worsen in those who already have the disease.
Inhalation of allergens or ingesting food containing allergens are two common types of exposure and can be life-threatening to asthma sufferers. But breathing in airborne allergens (mostly through dust particles) is considered the main cause of sensitization.
‘Cockroach asthma‘ is a real condition for many whose homes are or have been infested by cockroaches, especially German roaches (Blattella germanica).
It’s not surprising, then, that cockroach allergens rank second only to dust mite allergens in asthmatics.
Also concerning is that research has linked greater asthma rates in children who live in homes with high levels of cockroach allergens.
In fact, the rate of asthma hospitalization was 3.4 times higher in children whose bedrooms contained high levels of cockroach allergens.
3. Fear of cockroaches – how roaches can affect your mental health
Having a pest infestation of any sort can have a negative impact mentally. It can cause you to feel embarrassed and isolate yourself because you fear people’s reactions.
You worry that if you let anyone into your home, they might see you have a cockroach problem.
A phobia of any sort is not easy to live with, especially a phobia of a pest such as bed bugs, mice, or cockroaches.
Cockroach phobia (Katsaridaphobia)
Katsaridaphobia is basically the fear of cockroaches, which is an anxiety disorder characterized by an intense fear of and avoidance of this pest.
Roach phobia can also manifest as an irrational fear of contamination, injury, or death, caused by these pests.
Anxiety and panic attacks
These types of attacks can happen if you see a bug you think could be a roach, or even just from the thought of them returning to your home.
OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
People can develop OCD after an infestation and regularly feel an overwhelming need to clean their homes and remove any germs or traces of contamination caused by the roaches.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An event caused by extreme distress, such as living with a cockroach infestation, can cause PTSD.
People who experience this trauma often have pest-related thoughts that worry them long after the infestation has been eliminated.
Delusional parasitosis (DP)
DP is another condition where a person believes that their home is infested with cockroaches or a different pest when it isn’t.
This is sometimes seen by us pest control technicians who are called out to treat a pest problem but find no evidence of one.
The person suffering from DP believes they can feel roaches crawling on them, and often experiences itching and irritation, for which the person scratches or picks at their skin for relief.
These conditions can also lead to misusing pesticides, which impacts everyone in the household. We’ll cover this more below, as it’s important.
Dreams about cockroaches
It’s not unusual to dream about cockroaches if you have or have had a roach infestation.
These night terrors could be related to anxiety or fear of these pests crawling over you or discovering another roach infestation in the home.
In fact, many people dream about cockroaches after having a roach problem.
And while these dreams aren’t necessarily related to the actual presence of roaches, they can still be very frightening.
4. Improper use of pesticides
There are many cockroach-killing insecticides that you can buy in supermarkets and online.
However, pesticide exposure, improper use, and overuse can cause you and others in your home to suffer from headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and dizziness.
Chronic exposure can cause some serious problems, such as an increased risk of cancer and damage to your nervous system.
A survey of 500 randomly selected homes was carried out by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in collaboration with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. They analyzed samples of hard surface kitchen floors and found most floors in American homes contain insecticide levels that could be high enough to expose those who live in the property.
This is a worrying find, especially if you have young children as they play and pick things up from the floor.
The most frequently detected chemicals were permethrin (89%), chlorpyrifos (78%), chlordane (64%), piperonyl butoxide (52%), cypermethrin (46%), and fipronil (40%).
Total-release foggers (also called TRFs, bug bombs, insect foggers, or roach bombs) are still one of the main products used when people try to treat cockroaches and other pests themselves.
Don’t bother with TRFs! These bug bombs will not kill your cockroach infestation.
Why don’t they work? Foggers are designed to release the aerosol spray droplets upwards so they will spread out and settle on the floor, furniture, countertops, cooker, etc, and hopefully kill any roaches they come into contact with.
However, the droplets won’t get into the tiny cracks, crevices, or voids that cockroaches like to hide in, and the droplets won’t get into your kitchen cabinets or behind the baseboards, or anywhere else roaches scurry into.
Not only will the roach fogger leave an insecticide residue for weeks after use, but it also just causes the roaches to scatter into areas the aerosol cannot reach.
And as if that’s not bad enough, these bug bombs can be dangerous as they are highly flammable and cause lots of injuries each year through misuse.
A pest control professional will not use a bug bomb but will use gel bait, which is also what you want to use if doing it yourself, as they are highly effective at getting rid of cockroaches in your home.
Whatever you use, always read the instructions thoroughly beforehand.
Preventing cockroach health problems
As you can see, cockroaches can be hazardous to your health in more ways than one!
It’s not uncommon to feel embarrassed when you find roaches in your home and it’s not easy to talk to others about it because you don’t want people to think you have an unclean home.
Cockroaches are not fussy about whose house they enter, whether it’s an unkempt one or a clean one. What attracts cockroaches? Food, moisture, warmth, and shelter – they need these to survive.
Aside from dealing with an infestation, we’ve also established just how harmful roaches can be to our health.
So how do we prevent any of the above from happening in the first place, or from happening again?
Well, along with using a professional pest control company, good sanitation is key to controlling cockroaches. This means keeping your home free from clutter, so there’s nowhere for these pests to hide.
It also means cleaning up food spills, grease, and oils every day, making sure you frequently empty the trash cans, and keeping food items in sealed containers.
Roaches need moisture and water to survive. German roach infestations are the most common and are usually found in the kitchen and bathrooms, so repair any leaky pipes, cover floor drains, etc.
Seal their harborage sites, such as those behind cabinets, cracks in baseboards, and where plumbing pipes enter the walls.
Outside, seal any cracks and crevices in your home’s foundation or any gaps where they can enter.
If they can’t find their way into your home, they can’t be a hazard to your health.
You can learn exactly what to do and how to get rid of cockroaches permanently in this detailed guide.