Cockroaches & DiseaseBy Dr. Jim Fredericks
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The important link between cockroaches and diseases like
have ever had cockroaches in
your home, you know it can be an unpleasant experience. Their spiny
legs, prehistoric appearance and habit of hiding out in kitchens
and bathrooms can be enough to make even a brave soul feel a little
But many people do not realize that in addition to being
unattractive houseguests, cockroaches can also pose serious health
concerns when they enter our homes, schools, workplaces and other
buildings. For one, cockroaches can be a
trigger of asthma and allergies, especially in children. In
addition, these pests have been implicated in the spread of a
number of serious diseases to humans, making their presence in our
homes all the more concerning.
Cockroaches tend to live in moist areas, such as sewers, pipes,
drains and bathrooms. There, they pick up germs on the spines of
their legs as the crawl across sewage, garbage, decaying matter and
other filth. They can then transfer these germs – along with their
shed skins and fecal droppings – onto foods and food surfaces.
If an unknowing person consumes food contaminated by
cockroaches, it can make them very ill. In total, cockroaches are
known to spread 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and
Salmonella species, six types of parasitic worms and seven kinds of
human pathogens. E. coli and Salmonella bacteria can cause food
poisoning, or gastroenteritis. Common symptoms include belly pain,
severe stomach cramps and tenderness, diarrhea, nausea and
vomiting. Some people can experience severe diarrhea, which will
cause dehydration and may require hospitalization. In rare cases,
the bacteria can spread to the blood stream and cause life
Luckily, there are several things a homeowner can do to prevent
cockroaches from invading their home and posing these health
threats to their family. First and foremost, sanitation is key.
Keep your home – especially the kitchen and bathrooms – free of
crumbs and other debris. Vacuum frequently and use a disinfectant
to wipe down counters and other food surfaces after meal prep.
Tempting as it may be, avoid letting dirty dishes pile up in the
sink. In addition, take out the trash frequently, and store it in a
sealed receptacle outdoors.
Take an inventory of your pantry, keeping an eye out for foods
that pests could access, such as those stored in cardboard boxes.
Transfer these foods into sturdy, sealed containers, and throw away
any foods that have passed their expiration dates. In addition,
keep pet foods in a sealed container and wash out pet bowls
Finally, reducing moisture in your home can help to deter
cockroaches and other pests. Repair leaks under sinks and other
appliances, and consider installing a dehumidifier in damp crawl
spaces or basements.
If you do find signs of cockroaches in your home, contact a pest
professional promptly. They will be able to inspect your home,
confirm the species, and recommend an effective course of action
that will keep your family safe and healthy.