4 Ways Cockroaches Are a Danger to Your Health

The toxic bacteria they carry and the allergens they produce make cockroaches a serious danger to your health and more than just pests that infest our homes. Roaches are harmful in other ways too. They can cause mental health issues and lead to the overuse of insecticides when trying to eliminate them.

Learn more about how roaches are hazardous to our health below.  

Cockroach infestation that could cause health problems
German cockroach infestation

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 us 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

Cockroach allergy

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:[1] 

Sneezing

Runny nose

Itchy, red, or watery eyes

Stuffy nose

Itchy nose, mouth, or throat

Postnasal drip (a flow of mucus from behind your nose into your throat)

Cough

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 cockroaches (Blattella germanica).  It’s not surprising then that cockroach allergens are only second in terms of sensitivity 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.[2]

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)

This is basically having a fear of cockroaches which is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear and avoidance of this pest. It may also include irrational fears of contamination, injury, or death because of these pests.

Anxiety and panic attacks

These attacks can occur if you see a bug that you think could be a roach or even the mere thought of them being back in your home.

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

People can develop OCD after an infestation and regularly feel an overwhelming need to clean their home 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 worrying pest-related thoughts 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 pest control technicians who are called out to treat a pest but they find no evidence of a pest problem.

The person suffering from DP believes they can feel the roaches crawling on them and often experiences itching and irritation to which the person often scratches or picks at their skin for relief.

These conditions can also lead to misusing pesticides and this impacts everyone in the household, which we’ll cover below.

Dreams about cockroaches

It’s not unusual to dream about cockroaches if you have or have had a roach infestation. These night terrors may be related to feelings of anxiety or fear of these pests crawling over you or of another roach infestation.

In fact, many people experience dreaming 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.  But exposure to pesticides, improper use, and overusing them can cause you and others in your household some nasty health issues ranging from headaches, irritation to your eyes, nose, and throat, and dizziness.

Chronic exposure can cause serious problems such as an increased risk of cancer, and damage to your nervous system.

A survey of 500 randomly selected homes was conducted 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 that most floors in American homes contain insecticide levels that could be high enough for exposure to those who live in the property.

The most frequently detected chemicals were permethrin (89%), chlorpyrifos (78%), chlordane (64%), piperonyl butoxide (52%), cypermethrin (46%), and fipronil (40%).[3] 

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!  Bug bombs will not kill your cockroach infestation. 

Why?  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 it comes 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 are 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 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.

By now we’ve established that roaches are dangerous to our well-being aside from just having to deal with an infestation.  

But 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 for controlling cockroaches. This means keeping your house 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 usually found in the kitchen and bathrooms, so repair any leaky pipes, cover floor drains, etc.

Seal their harborage sites such as behind cabinets, cracks in baseboards, and where plumbing pipes enter the walls.  Outside seal any cracks and crevices in the foundations of your home or any gaps where they can enter from.   

You can learn exactly what to do and how to get rid of cockroaches permanently in this detailed guide.

[1] https://www.aafa.org/cockroach-allergy/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4803579/

[3] https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es8030243

I’ve been in the pest control industry helping people get rid of their unwanted pests for over 20 years, both in the UK and Canada.

As a licensed pest management professional, I’ve seen and treated just about every common household pest, insect, or rodent, you can think of. I’ve seen the damage caused when an infestation has been left too long and has become hard to get rid of.

For this reason, peststopsolutions.com was created. By having honest advice and the right guidance to hand, along with scientific evidence to back up claims, you are given information on the best eradication methods, as well as how to get rid of most pests yourself.