Cockroach Bites: Facts, Prevention and Simple Treatment Options

Cockroach Bites: Facts, Prevention and Simple Treatment Options
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Cockroaches are omnivores that love to feed on anything. Unfortunately, cockroaches are also known to bite humans, and cockroach bites can leave you with a nasty, red swollen lump on your skin. Cockroaches carry around bacteria and germs and if one bites you, you could also develop an allergic reaction or skin infection.

The most common species of cockroaches that infest homes are the large American cockroach, the German cockroach, and the Oriental cockroach. These pests usually live in dark, damp places and are most active at night. So, if you are bitten by a cockroach, you will most likely notice a bite mark in the morning. This is why roach bites are often confused with bed bug bites.

There are many natural methods to both eliminate cockroaches from your home and get rid of roach bites. For example, products like diatomaceous earth (DE), mint oil, and even just soapy water are all effective natural pesticides that destroy roaches. You can treat cockroach bites with apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or tea tree oil to soothe the itchy inflamed skin and treat any infection.

In this article, you will learn essential facts about cockroach bites and how to prevent a roach infestation in your home. You will also find out how to get rid of roach bites quickly, effectively, and naturally. Of course, if you already have a large infestation of cockroaches, you may need to call in professionals to get rid of these germ-carrying bugs.

Cockroach Bites – Facts You Need to Know

Although they are better known for infesting damp areas under sinks, dark cupboards, and leaving a trail of feces and germs, cockroaches do bite. Roach bites aren’t as common as bites from other insects like fleas, bed bugs, gnats, mites, or waterbugs. Unlike mosquito bites, the saliva transmitted in a cockroach bite doesn’t have harmful pathogens that can cause a serious disease. However, as you will learn in this article, bites from roaches can leave a nasty mark.

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology stated that “cockroaches are omnivorous scavengers that devour keratin.” They are also known to bite skin and cause injury.1

The most common places that cockroaches bite are fingernails, eyelashes, feet and hands. The journal PLoS ONE reported that American cockroaches can exert a powerful bite. In fact, the researchers discovered that roaches bite with 50 times more force than their body weight! This enables these pesky insects to chew through hard materials like wood and leave a nasty bite mark on your skin.2

Why cockroaches bite people

Cockroaches feed on anything. If they lack sufficient food or you have a large infestation of roaches in your home, then they may bite you.

Roaches are attracted to various foods in your home, especially decaying food. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that German cockroaches are attracted to chemicals released from starchy, sugary, fermenting foods.3

Therefore, one of the first steps in preventing bite from American cockroaches or German cockroaches is to keep work surfaces clear of leftover food and keep trash cans tightly shut.

What cockroach bites look like

It can be difficult to distinguish roach bites from other bug bites. Most species of cockroaches are more active at night, therefore, you might only notice bite marks on your hands, feet, or other areas of your body in the morning.

One of the differences between the symptoms of bed bug bites and roach bites is that bite marks left by cockroaches tend to be just one or two, not in a cluster.

Like most insect or flea bites, cockroach bites look like a swollen, itchy red bump on the skin. The inflammation is usually caused by an allergic reaction to the bite. If germs or bacteria from the nasty bug get into the bite, the area could become infected, swell even more, and become filled with pus.

Dangers of Roach Bites

There are a number of health dangers that scientists have found linked to cockroach bites. Although many risks from cockroaches come from the pathogens they carry, this is just another reason to eliminate any kind of cockroach as quickly as possible.

Roach bites cause bacterial skin infections

One of the most serious complications from a cockroach bite is an infection in the wound. Cockroaches carry with them many strains of harmful bacteria including the Staphylococcus aureus strain.

The journal Pathogens and Global Health reported that over 170 different bacterial strains were found on German cockroaches. Some other types of germs found on cockroaches were Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella typhi, and Shigella dysenteriae. The researchers said that domestic cockroaches spread disease among humans.4

Allergic reactions to cockroach bites

A very common skin reaction to bites from German cockroaches, American cockroaches, or Oriental roaches is an allergic response. A cockroach bite can cause inflammation, itching, redness, and swelling in the skin.

The journal Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research found that cockroaches are one of the most common sources of allergens worldwide. Apart from causing allergic reactions, cockroaches can also cause asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) in many people.5

Infect food and cause infections

If a cockroach bites into food or scurries over leftovers it could leave germs that can cause food poisoning. Food contaminated with bacteria can cause sickness, nausea and explosive diarrhea when consumed.

Various studies have identified cockroaches as a potential source of food poisoning. For example, the American Journal of Gastroenterology reported that cockroach-infected food can cause a Helicobacter pylori infection. This is the bacteria strain that causes abdominal cramping and stomach ulcers.6 Outbreaks of salmonella poisoning have also been linked to cockroach infestations.7

How to Prevent Cockroach Bites

The best way to prevent cockroach bites is to make sure and eradicate all cockroaches from your home. Getting rid of cockroaches isn’t too difficult, but it may require patience until you kill them all off.

Unless you have a very large infestation of roaches, there are many highly effective natural pesticides and cockroach repellents. Here are a few of the best ones you can use for roach removal.

Food grade diatomaceous earth for cockroach control

You can prevent cockroach bites by using food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance that effectively gets rid of cockroaches for good. The fine powder destroys the exoskeletal system of the roach causing it to dehydrate and die.

The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine reported on a study into the insecticidal effect of diatomaceous earth on adult and nymph cockroaches. The researchers found that DE is an effective insecticide and cockroaches don’t become resistant to it. The study also said that food grade DE is non-toxic to humans and pets and can safely be used around the home.8

You can also use DE to get rid of fleas, ants, bed bugs and aphids.

How to use:

  • Sprinkle a fine layer of food grade diatomaceous earth around areas where you think cockroaches enter your home or are living.
  • Repeat every 3-4 days until you no longer have any signs of a roach infestation.

Remember that DE loses its effectiveness if it becomes damp.

Natural mint oil cockroach insecticide

Mint oil is a natural insect repellent that can help to keep cockroaches at bay. Mint oil also has pesticide properties that are toxic to roaches and the fresh minty smell helps to eradicate any unpleasant odor from the roaches.

The Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology published a report into the efficacy of mint oil for cockroach control. The researchers found that mint oil kills off American cockroaches and German cockroaches. Mint oil is non-toxic to adults and children and can be used as an insecticide around the home.9

How to use:

  • Put approximately 20 drops of peppermint essential oil in a spray bottle filled with water.
  • Shake well and spray around the areas where cockroaches are living.
  • You can also use the mint oil spray on surfaces around the kitchen to keep them bacteria-free and smelling fresh.

Boric acid

You can make a natural cockroach bait using boric acid. Although boric acid is a natural substance, it is toxic and should be handled with care. However, it is a very effective way to kill off colonies of cockroaches. Boric acid coats the outer layers of cockroaches and is carried back to the colony to destroy other roaches.

A study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology found that cockroaches easily pick up the powder because there is no repellent activity from boric acid. Also, unlike DE, boric acid is an effective insecticide even when it is damp.10

How to use:

  • Sprinkle a fine layer of boric acid in areas where you think the cockroaches are traveling.
  • Repeat this every few days until you no longer have any signs of cockroaches.

You can also use boric acid to get rid of sugar ants fast and destroy colonies of palmetto bugs and other nasty creepy crawlers.

Please remember: boric acid is toxic if ingested and should be kept away from children and pets.

Soapy water to eliminate cockroaches

A solution of soapy water also makes an effective insect spray to kill cockroaches naturally. The detergent helps to destroy cockroaches and it can also help keep surfaces free from bacteria and germs. You can also boost the insecticidal properties of soapy water by adding some peppermint oil.

The Journal of Economic Entomology reported that a soapy water solution is effective against cockroach larvae and also at killing adult cockroaches.11

How to use:

  • Fill a spray bottle with warm water and add some dish-washing liquid.
  • Add 20 drops of peppermint oil and shake well.
  • Spray directly onto cockroaches if you see them to destroy the nasty pests.

How to Get Rid of Cockroach Bites

If you are unfortunate enough to have a cockroach bite, there are many natural home remedies to help get rid of the redness and swelling and ease the discomfort.

Apple cider vinegar

Raw Apple cider vinegar has many beneficial properties for taking the itch and swelling out of an insect bite. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar (ACV) help to kill off infection-causing germs. Also, acetic acid (which ACV contains high levels of) soothes itchy, red skin bumps.

Researchers have found that acetic acid helps to increase the skin’s pH levels and reduce itching around the inflamed skin.12 Also, acetic acid is a proven antiseptic that can clean skin infections and help them heal.13

How to use:

Always use raw, unfiltered ACV to help get rid of the irritation caused by cockroach bites.

  • Dilute equal amounts of water and raw ACV.
  • Dip a cotton ball in the vinegar remedy and apply directly to the infected skin bite.
  • Leave to dry, then rinse off with warm water.
  • Apply the home remedy 2-3 times a day to reduce redness and itching around the bite. This will also help to keep the punctured skin free of infections.

If you don’t have ACV to use on cockroach bites, lemon juice has similar properties and can be used to stop bites from itching and being red.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a wonderful product to heal inflamed skin and reduce swelling. Aloe vera can be used to quickly soothe itchy insect bites, including cockroach bites that have caused a red bump. You can use aloe vera gel in its pure form straight from a leaf or you can buy pure aloe vera gel and apply to the insect bite.

The journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera were actually more effective for soothing skin irritation than 1% hydrocortisone gel.  Hydrocortisone creams are often used to treat itchy insect bites.14

How to use:

To get rid of cockroach bites quickly and naturally, apply a little aloe vera gel regularly to the affected skin area. Repeat the remedy a few times a day until the discomfort caused by the roach bite had gone for good.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is another natural home remedy for getting rid of cockroach bites. Witch hazel contains natural astringents called tannins which are great for taking the sting and itch out of insect bites. Tannins also have antiseptic properties to kill off germs and bacteria.

Doctors on WebMD report that witch hazel is used as an anti-inflammatory agent on the skin. One of the many uses for witch hazel is to get rid of pain, itching, and skin swelling caused by insect bites.15

How to use:

To use witch hazel for cockroach bites, all you need is a cotton ball and pure witch hazel.

  • Soak a cotton ball in pure witch hazel.
  • Gently apply to the roach bite to help reduce inflammation and get rid of any itchiness.
  • Apply 2-3 times a day and repeat until your skin is clear from any redness and swelling.

Alternatively, you can use the astringent properties of black tea (which also contains tannins) to get rid of roach bite discomfort. In fact, this is a great way to use your old tea bags.

Tea tree oil

A drop of tea tree oil on an itchy cockroach bite will help to quickly remove the itch and reduce swelling. Tea tree oil is also a powerful antibacterial agent that will prevent skin infections from spreading and destroy infection-causing germs.

A review into the many medicinal and therapeutic properties of tea tree oil shows its potential for use in treating insect bites. The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial product with anti-inflammatory properties.16

How to use:

Tea tree oil is one of the few essential oils that you can put directly on your skin as a spot treatment. You can use tea tree oil as a spot treatment to cure a roach bite by doing the following:

  • Put a drop or two of tea tree oil onto the end of a cotton swab.
  • Apply the oil directly to the affected area where the cockroach bite is itchy.
  • Repeat 2-3 times a day to prevent any infection and get rid of the itchy, red skin.

Tea tree oil is also a great way to get rid of other bugs from your home. Find out how to make a natural tea tree bug spray to eliminate bed bugs and other critters.

Cockroach Bites – When to See a Doctor

On rare occasions when the cockroach bite has become very infected you may need professional advice. If none of the home remedies here have helped, you should visit your doctor.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommend visiting your doctor after an insect bite if you have the following symptoms:

  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You develop a fever.
  • You feel dizzy, nauseous, or vomit.
  • You have a headache.

If the infection persists and you have discharge from the infected bite, you should see a doctor to make sure that the infection doesn’t poison the blood.

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Article Sources:
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  2. PLoS One. 2015; 10(11): e0141226.
  3. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 23;59(4):1330-7.
  4. Pathog Glob Health. 2014 Apr; 108(3): 141–147.
  5. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2012 Sep; 4(5): 264–269.
  6. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Jul;98(7):1500-3.
  7. J Hyg Comb. (1977), 79, 339.
  8. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 May; 4(Suppl 1): S228–S232.
  9. Agric. Urban Entomol. 18(3): 149–156 (July 2001)
  10. J Econ Entomol. (1966) 59 (6): 1374-1388.
  11. J Econ Entomol. 2002 Apr;95(2):390-8.
  12. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Jul; 11(10): 1673–1682.
  13. PLosOne. The antibacterial activity of acetic acid.
  14. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(2):106-10.
  15. WebMD. Witch hazel.
  16. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62.
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