Cockroaches Are a Health Hazard: Myth or Reality?

Cockroaches are unwanted visitors to the home - find out about the health risks they pose and how to keep them away from your home!
Cockroaches Are a Health Hazard: Myth or Reality?
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Last update: 30 May, 2023

Cockroaches are one of the most unpleasant animals we can have in our homes. They hide in crevices, reproduce quickly, and adapt to different environments. These arthropods, belonging to the Blattidae family, are associated with dirt and disease. In this article, we’ll find out that cockroaches are a health hazard.

Like other animals, such as rodents or mosquitoes, cockroaches are vectors. They’re characterized by carrying disease-causing germs from contaminated environments.

They’re best adapted to humid and warm environments, so they’re strongly present in neotropical climates. They can range in size from 5 millimeters, in their early stages of development, up to 10 centimeters (4 inches). They have nocturnal habits, so they usually hide in cracks or small spaces during the day, to come out to look for food at night.

The real dangers of cockroaches to human health

Cockroaches are a health hazard because they carry more than 40 species of pathogenic bacteria. In addition, they can also transmit helminths, protozoa, viruses and fungi. According to research published in the Journal of Medical Entomology , Salmonella bacteria in food is associated with the circulation of cockroaches.

In particular, cockroaches often carry droppings and waste on their legs. These can get deposited on food and then, upon ingestion, make us sick.

Some of the most common illnesses they cause in humans are intestinal infections, leading to diarrhea and gastroenteritis. Some scientific reports have found that cockroaches carry parasites that cause the most frequent intestinal parasitosis in low-income countries:

  • Entamoeba histolytica
  • Enterobius vermicularis
  • Ascaris lumbricoides

Likewise, the American Lung Association pointed out that cockroaches have allergens that aggravate asthma and produce allergic reactions. These allergens are spread in small particles in the air, so they can adhere to clothing and furniture.

However, systematic reviews on the subject clarify that not all people are sensitive to the allergens of these animals. Even so, international health organizations recommend minimizing their presence and frequent disinfection in homes where asthmatics live.

A woman in bed.
If gastroenteritis were to occur due to contact with cockroaches, symptoms would range from abdominal pain to diarrhea.

Can they bite us?

Because of their physical characteristics, their rapid climbing movements, and their association with disease, cockroaches produce phobias in many people. When we see them at home, we might feel afraid of them and even wonder if they can bite us.

Research has found that they have chewing mouthparts with robust jaws. That is, their anatomy would allow them to bite.

Despite this characteristic, it isn’t common for them to bite humans. If they feel threatened, they tend to flee. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even states that they don’t bite, but that their legs can scratch.

Cockroaches have 3 pairs of long, agile legs, and most of them have many spines. These spines allow them to move and offer protection against some predators, as well as giving them grip.

If you accidentally touch a cockroach, it can hurt you with its legs and you would feel as if it had bitten you.

How to keep cockroaches away from your home?

A home with cockroaches.
If you live in an area with abundant cockroaches, you should put in place several mechanisms to prevent their reproduction and eliminate them.

Prevention is the first aspect to consider to keep cockroaches away from home. To do this, you should seal cracks in doors and windows to prevent them from entering.

It’s also important to cover cracks in bathrooms and kitchens to prevent them from accessing water and food sources. Here are some other successful strategies.

Implement rigorous cleaning measures

Cockroaches represent a health hazard because they carry microorganisms and substances from dirty places. For this reason, it’s necessary to have a correct waste control system that keeps garbage tightly covered and guarantees frequent garbage collection.

It’s also crucial to avoid garbage dumps near the home. Likewise, there shouldn’t be any accumulation of grease and food waste in the kitchen.

Implement regular cleaning in places that are difficult to access for daily cleaning. For example, under the refrigerator, behind the oven and appliances, and near garbage containers.

Seal and store food

To prevent cockroaches from being attracted to food and contaminating it, it’s essential to store it in clean places and in airtight containers. Under no condition should it be left exposed in the kitchen or dining room, especially at night.

Pet issues

Keep your dog or cat food in airtight containers or seal the bags containing it. You should regularly wash the containers your pet eats from, and clean the residue left on the floor. In addition, you should clean up their feces immediately.

Check the humidity in your home

Humid environments are known to be conducive to the spread of pests. In particular, cockroaches prefer them. Therefore, keep the different spaces in your house dry and repair damaged pipes or leaks in the walls.

Use baking soda, water, and sugar

One of the best-known and most effective home remedies is a mixture of baking soda, water, and sugar. You put it in small lids in the corners of the home. If your home has cracks or crevices in the walls and floor, you can place baking soda to keep them from nesting there.

Use cockroach repellent on doors and windows

If you live in an area where cockroaches are common and have had a couple of them in your home, you can resort to repellent sprays that should be sprayed on doors and windows. These products are usually effective in preventing them from entering the house.

Turn to the experts to reduce the dangers of cockroaches to human health

If your home is infested with cockroaches, we recommend you turn to pest control experts who offer comprehensive solutions. These animals are very resistant and spread their eggs easily.

Municipal health departments often have pest control programs and free advice. Don’t let it go on for too long.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.