Can Cockroaches Make You Sick?



When you think of cockroaches, images and connotations of dirtiness and poor hygiene come crawling into your mind. But did you also know that cockroaches can make you quite ill?

Diseases you can catch from cockroaches

There are quite a few diseases caused by cockroaches. What’s important to note is that cockroaches aren’t vectors for diseases but mainly reservoirs. What this means is that unlike mosquitoes that transfer diseases through biting (vectors), cockroaches transmit diseases through contamination, and they pretty much contaminate everything they touch.

Here are the main diseases spread by cockroaches:

  • Asthma
  • Salmonella
  • E. Coli


Compared to the other cockroach diseases on this list, asthma is a lot different. As a pose to transmitting asthma to people, cockroaches trigger asthma.

Cockroaches trigger asthma through an allergic reaction. Cockroach allergy was first reported in 1943. This was discovered when patients developed skin rashes after cockroaches crawled on their skin. It was fully confirmed in 1959 that cockroaches trigger allergic reactions.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s where these allergies to cockroaches also trigger asthma was discovered. Doctors noticed that patients with cockroach allergies showed signs of asthma attacks. Asthma attacks occur after inhaling allergens release by cockroaches.

It is estimated by the World Health Organization that 300m people worldwide suffer from asthma. It has been discovered that frequent hospital visits of children living in cities suffering from asthma can often be as a result to contact with cockroaches. Around 23-60% of people with Asthma are sensitive to cockroach allergens.

The National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study (NCICAS) found that asthmatic children with both a positive skin prick test to cockroach allergen, and a high exposure to cockroach allergen in the bedroom were more likely to have wheezing, missed school days, nights without sleep, and unscheduled medical visits and hospitalizations for asthma. Approximately 23 percent to 60 percent of urban residents with asthma are sensitive to the cockroach allergens. However, the risk of asthma from cockroach allergen exposure and allergy is not limited to children.


Like rodents, cockroaches are also known to spread salmonella. The Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) estimates that salmonella causes more than 1.2 million illnesses each year, with 2, 3000 of those resulting in hospitalizations. Contraction of salmonella can develop into other serious illnesses such as gastroenteritis and typhoid fever. However, usually salmonella requires little to no treatment and disappears at around 4 to 7 days. It is only the severe cases where dehydration comes into play, where hospitalization is needed.


E.Coli (Escherichia Coli) is a bacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. E.Coli is responsible for cause serious food poisoning in their hosts.

Depending on the severity of the virus, food poisoning caused by E.Coli can be treated simply by replenishing fluids and taking antibiotics. The illness usually last between 5-10 days, with most people will be better in 6-8 days.

Signs of infection

You might be wondering “how can I tell if I have caught a cockroach disease?” There are a few signs which can identify as a cockroach disease.

Signs of cockroach diseases

  • Chesty cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint pain

However, it’s worth noting that these diseases aren’t specific to cockroaches, and you can catch them from other sources. Identifying if cockroaches are the route of these illnesses is matching the symptoms with signs of cockroaches.

How can you catch a disease from a cockroach?

As previously stated, unlike mosquitoes, cockroaches are reservoirs for diseases. Cockroaches transmit diseases mechanically.

You can catch a disease from a cockroach by:

  • Inhaling – As you already know, asthma can be triggered by cockroaches by inhaling allergens their presence releases into the air.
  • Touching – You can catch a disease from a cockroach by touching anything contaminated by cockroaches and then proceeding to touch your eyes, nose and/or mouth. This allows for the bacteria to transfer itself from your hands into your immune system.
  • Digesting – Just like with touching, you can transmit a cockroach disease by eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated by a cockroach.

How can cockroaches contaminate things?

You’ve probably already noticed that cockroach diseases are transmitted through these insects contaminating items which we regularly come in contact with. Cockroaches are carries of bacteria.

Cockroaches have a varied diet. They will eat anything from the ham sandwich in your desk drawer, to the feces in your cat’s litter tray. It is because of this that a whole range of different bacteria and diseases can be found in their stomachs and bladders.

Cockroach droppings

German Cockroach droppings
German Cockroach droppings

Due to a cockroach harboring many diseases such as salmonella in their stomachs, cockroach feces can harbor a large sum of harmful bacteria. Unlike us cockroaches don’t have a specific area which they use for their toiletry requirements and will defecate on anything. If you come into contact with anything contaminated with cockroach excrement there is a strong possibility you could contract whatever disease it is infected with.

Cockroach vomit

Just like cockroach droppings, their vomit also plays host to a range of different diseases. You know by now that cockroaches will eat anything, and will rely heavily on our food supplies in an urban environment. But did you know cockroaches regurgitate digestive fluids as part of their eating process? That means that the tasty ham sandwich in your desk drawer could come with a side of cockroach diseases.

Cockroach Urine

Cockroach urine is also responsible for transmitting cockroach diseases. Just like with their droppings, cockroaches will urinate anywhere, and their urine also contains harmful diseases. If you have a large infestation on your hands then there might be a chance that a lot of items might be contaminated with cockroach urine in your property.

Managing Symptoms Caused by Cockroaches

To prevent and manage allergies caused by cockroaches, your best bet is to get rid of any sort of infestation entirely. Getting rid of the infestation in your home will give you the best shot at minimizing the effects.

It would also be wise to thoroughly clean your home. Remove the clutter and deep-clean everything. This will go a long way in creating an environment that is not favorable to cockroaches. Use an air purifier to help capture any roach droppings that may be airborne.

How to prevent cockroach diseases

The best way to prevent catching a cockroach disease is to reduce the possibility of coming into contact with these pests. The best way to do this is to take the necessary cockroach prevention procedures. This will reduce the risk of acquiring a cockroach infestation, and eliminate the possibility of cockroaches contaminating your property with diseases.

Cockroach prevention

There are a few prevention techniques you can do yourself to help reduce the risk of cockroaches entering your property.


Ensure that all work surfaces, kitchen counters, desks, and floors are clean and free from food debris and liquid spills as well as emptying out bins daily. This limits the food source available for cockroaches, making your property less appealing to them.

Follow proper hand hygiene

Washing your hands regularly, specifically before eating can help eliminate the germs and bacteria spread by cockroaches.

Seal cracks and gaps

Sealing any cracks and gaps in your property will eliminate the entry points cockroaches can use to get into your home.

Contact a professional

German Cockroaches
Cockroaches stuck in a trap

Enlisting the help of a professional pest control company can help ensure your property is safe from cockroaches.  At Truly Nolen, we offer a wide range of cockroach services and solutions both in prevention and managing a cockroach problem.

Call 877-977-1553 today for your free inspection and protect your home, and your health.  Proudly serving: Dundas, Ancaster, Oakville, Hamilton and Burlington.