Can Cockroaches Make You Sick? (9 Diseases Listed)

Can Cockroaches Make You Sick? (9 Diseases Listed)

Have you been putting up with cockroaches in your home?

What if you knew that they could be making you and your family sick?

Read below to find out how these annoying pests may be endangering your health.

Getting to Know the Cockroach

Cockroaches have a reputation for being disgusting, disease-ridden bugs. Unfortunately, this reputation is well deserved.

Cockroaches are carriers for a wide variety of diseases and may have even been responsible for the Black Plague.

Cockroaches are one of the most common household pests. They have been around since the prehistoric age and will probably be here long after we’re gone.

Typically they can be seen at night when they come out to scavenge food and water from your kitchen, trash cans, and drains.

They are known for the distinct, foul-smelling odor that they secrete from scent glands.

Cockroaches do have wings but they are rarely known to fly.

Their egg sacks are leathery and bean-shaped and can be found in dark, moist areas like under your sink or behind a water heater.

Cockroaches love human food but aren’t picky – they’ll eat carboard, newspapers, book bindings, dead cockroaches, feces… almost anything really!

How Do They Spread Disease?

Cockroaches themselves don’t have diseases but they are great at picking up bacteria and parasites wherever they go. They then spread them around your home by walking on dishes and countertops, nibbling at your food, and depositing their feces.

They also regurgitate as they eat, which can further spread disease.

When you use a dish or eat a piece of food that has been contaminated, you are at risk of getting sick. People with lowered immune systems such as children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the diseases cockroaches carry around.

Conditions And Diseases Spread By Cockroaches

Check out this list of 9 things that make roaches pretty disgusting and unhealthy.

1. Allergies and Asthma

Cockroaches contain a specific protein that can cause allergies in many people.

People with cockroach allergies can experience skin rashes and itchiness if they come into contact with a cockroach.

Cockroach allergies can also make asthma symptoms worse or trigger a full-blown asthma attack.

This happens when there is a bad infestation and the “cockroach proteins” invade the air in your home.

The proteins are then inhaled and trigger symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, and airway constriction.

2. Food Poisoning

Contaminated food is one of the most common ways cockroaches can make you sick. If food is left out, especially at night, cockroaches can infect them with a number of illness-causing bacteria.

E. Coli, campylobacteria, listeria, and salmonella are commonly found living on the bodies of cockroaches and can contaminate food.

Food poisoning causes a wide variety of symptoms, but the most common include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever.

Listeria, on the other hand, can be much more serious. It is especially problematic for pregnant women and can cause serious complications for the unborn baby. In adults it can spread to the nervous system and cause convulsions.

3. Parasites

Cockroaches can carry the eggs of many parasitic worms including the hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm.

These parasites can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can mimic other conditions like food poisoning.

Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anemia.

4. Dysentery

Anyone who played the game Oregon Trail growing up will be familiar with Dysentery. This inflammation of the GI tract causes diarrhea that contains blood and mucus.

Dysentery is caused by the bacteria shigella or entamoeba, a parasite.

This disease used to be a much more serious problem before modern medicine, but today most people will recover just fine with rest and plenty of fluids.

5. Enterococcus

Enterococcus is a disease caused by the bacteria enterococcus faecalis. As the name implies, this bacterium is spread when cockroaches walk through or eat contaminated feces.

Enterococcus can cause meningitis, urinary tract infections, or blood poisoning in people with weakened immune systems.

6. Cholera

Cholera is an infection caused by the bacteria vibrio cholerae.

The major symptom is acute diarrhea, but symptoms don’t occur in 80% of people infected. Of the people who experience symptoms, only 20% experience serious complications like severe dehydration.

7. Typhoid Fever

This bacterial infection is caused by salmonella typhi. It is a highly infectious disease that is spread when cockroaches walk in or eat contaminated feces.

Typhoid fever is not very common in the U.S., and symptoms usually improve quickly when treatment is started early.

Symptoms include a high fever, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches.

8. Leprosy

Many insects, cockroaches included, are thought to be carriers of mycobacterium leprae, the bacteria that causes Leprosy.

Leprosy is not highly infections, and people can have this disease for up to 20 years without experiencing any symptoms!

If left untreated, Leprosy can cause permanent skin, eye, and nerve damage.

9. Bubonic Plague

Yes, this is the same plague that you learned about in high school that wiped out much of the world’s population in the 14 th century.

Rats may come to mind when you think of the plague, but cockroaches are more likely to spread this disease.

Luckily, the Bubonic Plague is much less problematic in modern times. Less than 150 deaths occur per year worldwide.

Symptoms of the Bubonic Plague include muscle cramps, high fever, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are caused by a bacterium called yersinia pestis.

Other Problems Caused by Roaches

Bites. Although relatively uncommon, cockroaches can bite and may do so if you fall asleep with any food remnants on your hands or face. Cockroach bites resemble large mosquito bites and may be itchy or painful.

Crawling into orifices. If you’re squeamish and have made it this far, you may want to skip this section.

Cockroaches can crawl into orifices on the human body and get stuck. There have been reports of people showing up to the ER with cockroaches lodged in their ears!

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This may sound like a freak accident, but EENT specialists see cases like this on a monthly basis.

Does the thought of a cockroach in your ear makes you never want to sleep again?

You can help prevent this from happening by showering before bed and cleaning your ears. yes, seriously!

You should also avoid eating in bed and wash your sheets weekly.

How to Prevent Cockroaches

The best way to prevent cockroaches is to keep your house clean. Cockroaches are drawn to food, water, and messy homes. Take out the trash before going to bed and make sure the sink is free of dirty dishes.

You should also eliminate any moisture in your home. Check under sinks and in bathrooms for any water accumulation and avoid leaving wet towels on the floor.

It is also important to make sure your house is well sealed. Cracks in doors and loose siding can be a highway for bugs to enter your home.

Cockroaches can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Oftentimes a professional is necessary and multiple treatments may be needed to get rid of them completely. If you don’t have an infestation already, do your best to prevent one by keeping your home neat and tidy.

Do cockroaches fly? Unfortunately, such occur

Understanding the Cockroach

Following excerpt courtesy of Clemson University
From article by entomologists Eric Benson and Patricia A. Zungoli


Cockroaches have three stages of development — egg, nymph (immature form which closely resembles the adult form only smaller) and adult.

The egg stage in cockroaches is unusual in the insect world. Cockroaches put their eggs into small cases holding anywhere from about six to 40 or more young. Some cockroaches put their egg cases in a protected place soon after it is formed, while others hold it internally or on the end of their body until it is ready to hatch.

When the young break out of the egg case, they are very small nymphs. To grow, all insects must shed their outer skin by a process called molting. When a cockroach molts, it is soft and white until its body hardens and darkens. With each molt, the cockroach grows in size and becomes more adult-like. It may take a cockroach as little as six weeks to become an adult or as long as a few years. This will depend on what kind of cockroach it is and how favorable the conditions are for its growth.

As with most insects, cockroaches will not molt after reaching the adult stage. Adults look similar in shape to nymphs but will often have wings.

It is important to know which kind of cockroach you are trying to control because each kind likes to be in a slightly different location. The cockroach pests that are most difficult to control are usually the smaller kinds, but if the larger ones establish inside, they too can be difficult to eliminate.


Small Cockroaches: The most persistent cockroach pests are the smaller kinds that live and breed indoors with people. This includes the very common German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the less common brownbanded cockroach (Supella longipalpa).

German Cockroach: German cockroach adults are Ѕ to 5 / 8 inch long and pale brown or tan with two parallel black streaks behind the head. Unlike most cockroaches, German cockroach females protect their egg cases by carrying them around. The egg case protrudes from the body until the eggs are nearly ready to hatch. Each egg case contains thirty to forty eggs that take about two weeks to hatch. A female German cockroach may produce one to seven cases during her life. German cockroach nymphs are about 1 / 8 inch long when they hatch and uniformly dark, except for a lighter brownish area in the middle of the body.

German cockroaches are mainly found in kitchens and bathrooms around sinks and drains, behind refrigerators and stoves, and in cabinets. However, if sanitation is poor, German cockroaches may be found in other places. Even though adult German cockroaches have wings, they do not fly.

Brownbanded Cockroach: Brownbanded cockroach adults are about 5 / 8 inch long. All stages have two light, yellow-brown bands that run across their backs. The bands on adult males may be hard to see since their light brown wings completely cover their narrow bodies. The males can fly in a warm environment.

Brownbanded cockroaches may be found anywhere in a structure, especially above floor level around cabinets and in corners near the ceiling. Egg cases are often glued underneath drawers and in furniture and appliances, including TV’s, microwaves, computers, and radios.

Large Cockroaches: The most common large cockroaches include the American (Periplaneta americana), the smokybrown (P. fuliginosa) and the oriental (Blatta orientalis). These cockroaches are normally found outdoors, but they can live inside.

American cockroach: American cockroach adults range in size from 1Ѕ to 2 inches. Generally, they are red-brown in color, with pale yellow «halolike» markings behind the head. The nymphs are about ј inch long when they hatch from the egg case and are initially gray-brown. As they develop, they become more red-brown and the «halo» becomes more prominent.

American cockroaches are often found in dark, moist, warm areas, especially around sewers, storage rooms, and garbage areas. Along the coast they may be found in trees. When inside, they generally stay on the basement and first floor levels. Adults may fly on warm evenings.

Smokybrown cockroach: Smokybrown cockroach adults are 1 to 1Ѕ inches in length and, as the name implies, smoky-brown in color. The young nymphs are about 3 / 8 inch long, with black bodies and white markings on the middle of their bodies and the tips of their antennae. As they grow, they turn a mahogany color before becoming smoky-brown adults.

Smokybrown cockroaches prefer dark, warm, humid environments. They can be very mobile and will use a variety of habitats such as mulch, log piles, thick vegetation, and gutters around roofs. Along the coast they may be found in trees, especially palmettos. In a structure, they can be found from the attic to the crawl space. Adults may fly on warm evenings.

Oriental cockroach: Oriental cockroach adults are 1 to 1ј inches in length and dark brown to jet black in color. The wings of the males are 2 / 3 the length of the body, while the females have only small wing pads. Neither sex is capable of flight. The nymphs are about ј inch long when they hatch and go from red-brown to black as they develop.

Oriental cockroaches prefer dark, damp, and relatively cool locations. They can be found in water meter boxes, sewer lines, leaf litter, crawl spaces and basements. In a structure, they rarely go above the basement level.

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Many cockroaches do not live in close association with humans. Others are found in only a few locations around the state. These are considered minor pests.

The Surinam cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis) is about 1 inch in length, with a stout body. It is brown to black with a pale band on the front edge of its body. The wings extend beyond the length of the body. Only females are known to occur, and all the young are clones of the mother. Surinam cockroaches are mostly found along the coast, where they can become very numerous in lawns. Sometimes they are transported in plantings used in shopping malls.

Wood cockroaches are a group of minor cockroach pests. They are native to North America. Males are usually plain brown and 1 inch or less in length. Females are shorter and broader than males. Generally, females range in color from light to dark brown, with wings only half the length of the body or shorter. Males are good fliers and are often found around lights at night. Sometimes males fly into buildings. Outdoors, wood cockroaches are found in areas such as wood piles, mulch and leaf litter. Indoors, wood cockroaches cannot survive very well and are seldom a problem.

There are many control strategies available to help solve cockroach problems. Cockroach control requires more than just insecticides. You will be most successful if you use a combination of methods. Preventing access to shelter, food and water around your home is one of the best control measures both outside and inside.

Outdoor habitat changes that may help include:

  • Removing as much mulch or debris around the building as possible.
  • Pruning tree limbs and shrubbery so they do not touch the house.
  • Stacking wood away from the house and raising the piles off the ground.
  • If you have pets, not leaving food bowls out overnight and keeping kennel areas clean.
  • Disposing of garbage in sealed bags and in garbage cans with lids.
  • If you recycle, rinsing out cans and bottles and keeping your recycling areas in a dry location away from the house. Do not let your recycling area become too cluttered.
  • Keeping screens and weather stripping in good repair.
  • Checking attic vents and windows.
  • Caulking large openings around outside drainage lines and sewer vents. Steel wool can be used as a temporary filler until you can caulk openings properly.
  • Remembering to check grocery bags, boxes, firewood and other items that may serve as a means of entry for cockroaches.

If cockroaches do get inside, the following tips will help you control them:

  • Keep food and garbage in tight containers.
  • Clean up all crumbs and spills on floors, counters and shelves as soon as possible.
  • Keep faucets and drains under sinks and appliances in good repair. Do not let water stand in the sink for long periods of time.
  • Keep clutter from accumulating, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Cockroaches often hide in messy cabinets and in stacks of newspapers, bags and rags.
  • Vacuum often. Vacuuming is very important because it can remove small food crumbs and cockroach egg-cases that may not be killed by insecticides.

Good sanitation is important, both inside and outside the house. It is often the best control measure for cockroaches.

Many products for cockroach control can be found in supermarkets, garden supply stores, feed and seed stores, and farm supply stores. It is impossible to list all the insecticides and products. You can usually find the right chemical in the store by looking at the lists of ingredients on the containers. Look at the label on products at the store to help you select the one that can be safely and legally used on a specific site. Read the entire label and only use insecticides according to label instructions. Most homeowner products come in a dust, bait or spray form.

Dusts are slow-acting, but they give long-lasting control. Boric acid is probably the most commonly used dust labeled for cockroach control. Boric acid should be applied as a thin film in out-of-the-way places such as under refrigerators, stoves and sinks, as well as in wall voids, cracks and crevices. It should not be applied in open areas such as on shelves and counters where food and utensils are kept. Never place in reach of children and pets.

—The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

How Do Cockroaches Reproduce?

Cockroaches are hazardous pests that do not only look unpleasant but can pose a real hazard to you, your family, and your pet’s health. If you want to know more about efficient remedies, reading reviews of cockroach killers can be a good way to start your battle against these invaders. After mating, females can lay up to 8 oothecae during their lifetimes, which means about 300 to 400 eggs that will turn into adults in a few months.

What do you know about cockroaches?

Cockroaches are insects, and they are part of the Blattodea order, which is the same one that includes termites, as well. Out of 4,600 species, 30 are associated with human habitats. Only four species are well-known as pests.

These insects are ancient, dating back at least about 320 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period. However, those ancestors lacked the internal ovipositors of contemporary roaches. These creatures are generalized insects that do not have special adaptations such as the sucking mouthparts of aphids and other similar bugs.

They possess chewing mouthparts and are some of the most primitive among living insects. Roaches are common and resistant insects that can tolerate many types of environments from tropical heat to arctic cold.

The tropical species are often bigger than temperate ones. There are species, like the gregarious German cockroach, that have a very elaborate social structure which involves social dependence, common shelter, information transfer, and even kin recognition.

Roaches have made their presence in the human culture since classical antiquity. They are commonly described as dirty pests, even if most species are quite harmless and live in a vast range of environments around the world.

What does a cockroach look like?

Most cockroach species are around the size of a thumbnail, but there are a few bigger ones. The heaviest cockroach in the world is the giant burrowing cockroach, native to Australia, which can reach 3.5 inches and weigh over 1.1 oz. In the Central American region, there is the giant cockroach, Blaberus giganteus, which is comparable in size with the first one.

The longest species is the Megaloblatta longipennis, and it can reach 3.8 inches in length and 1.8 inches across. The longest wingspan of 7.3 inches is achieved by the Megaloblatta blaberoides species. The most common species have a relatively small head and a broad, flattened body, and most of them have reddish-brown or dark brown colors.

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Also, they have two ocelli, large compound eyes, and long and flexible antennae. On the underside of their head, they have the mouthparts which include salivary glands, chewing mandibles, as well as several taste and touch receptors.

The body of a cockroach is divided into a chest of three segments as well as a ten-segmented abdomen. The exterior has a hard exoskeleton that contains calcium carbonate and has the role of protecting the inner organs and also provides an attachment to the muscles. Furthermore, the body is coated with wax which repels water.

The wings are attached to the second and third thoracic segments. The first pair of wings is called the tegmina, and they are hard and protective. They lie as a shield on the hind wings which are membranous and are used for flying. Both pairs of wings are equipped with longitudinal veins as well as several cross-veins.

These insects have three pairs of legs which are very sturdy, and each has large coxae and five claws. Every pair is attached to one of the three thoracic segments. Since the front legs are the shortest and the rear ones the longest, they provide the cockroach the main propulsive power when running.

In the past, the spines on the legs were thought to be sensory, but recent studies revealed that they actually help the insects crawl on difficult terrain. These structures have also been used as an inspiration for robotic legs.

As previously mentioned, the abdomen of a cockroach is divided into ten segments and each has a pair of spiracles for respiration. The tenth segment has a pair of cerci, a pair of anal styles, the external genitalia, and the anus.

Male roaches have an aedeagus through which they can secrete sperm when copulating, while females have a spermatheca in which they store sperm, and an ovipositor used to lay the ootheca. This brings us to the main topic of our article, and that is the process through which cockroaches reproduce.

How do cockroaches reproduce?

In order to attract mates, these insects use pheromones. The male cockroaches practice courtship rituals like posturing and stridulation. Similar to many other insects, these ones mate facing away from each other, keeping their genitalia in contact. Thus, copulation can be prolonged.

Only a few species are known to be parthenogenetic, which means that they can reproduce without the need of mates. Females can sometimes be observed carrying egg cases on the end of their abdomens. For example, the German cockroach can hold about 30 to 40 long and thin eggs in a case that is called an ootheca.

Before hatching, she drops the capsule. In very rare cases, live births may occur. The egg capsule can take over five hours to lay and it is bright white initially. Due to the combined pressure of the hatchlings gulping air, the eggs finally hatch. Baby cockroaches are first bright white nymphs, and then they continue inflating themselves with air.

Within a few hours, they become harder and darker. The development from eggs to adults can take three to four months. These insects usually live up to a year, in which time the female can produce up to eight oothecae in a lifetime.

This means that, if the conditions are favorable, she can give birth anywhere from 300 to 400 offspring. Some species can produce even more eggs. There are even cases where the female only needs to be impregnated once in order for her to be able to lay eggs for her entire life.

Usually, the female attaches the ootheca to a substrate, places it into a fit protective crevice, or carries it until just before the eggs begin to hatch. The ovoviviparous species keep the eggs inside their bodies, with or without an ootheca, up until they hatch.

The Diploptera species are known to be viviparous, which means that they produce living younglings instead of eggs, similar to mammals. These insects have an incomplete metamorphosis. This means that the nymphs are very similar to adults, the exception being undeveloped genitalia and wings.

The development is a slow process that can usually take a few months, but, in some cases, even a whole year. Some adults are also long-lived and can survive up to four years in the laboratory, as studies reveal.

Large families

Cockroaches are social beings. If you see one cockroach, you should know that there are usually many more lurking around. If that happens in your home, you have a serious problem on your hands. A considerable number of species can be either gregarious or inclined to aggregate.

A slightly smaller number show parental care. If earlier observations lead to the belief that these insects aggregate because they are reaching to environmental cues, recent studies reveal that pheromones are involved in these behaviors. There are species that secrete these in their feces with gut microbial symbionts. Others use the glands that are located on their mandibles.

The pheromones that are produced by the cuticle may allow these insects to differentiate between distinct populations of cockroaches by odor.

Cockroaches are pests

No matter how fascinating cockroaches might be for the insects’ fans, the fact of the matter is that these creatures are known pests. There are only a few harmful species, but that is already enough.

Roaches pose a serious health risk, and they often invade homes in search of food, water, and shelter. Unfortunately, human habitats are also some of the roaches’ favorite places to hide as well. They are dirty on the outside because they crawl in many unsanitary places like sewers, as well as on the inside, as they carry and transmit multiple bacteria and parasites.

They both regurgitate and defecate the food they eat, so you can imagine what would happen if they got to your food. Moreover, they can infect your belongings by crawling over them and leaving a lot of feces behind.

Besides the fact that they transmit diseases, they worsen the condition of people with allergies. However, the biggest problem is that they stay in large numbers. As mentioned earlier, if you see one in your home, drop everything and deal with this issue immediately.

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