Most of us have had the experience of stumbling into the kitchen or bedroom at night, turning on a light, and witnessing a small, brown creature scurry into the shadows of a far corner or under a piece of furniture. If you see this, one word almost immediately comes to mind: cockroaches.
You may feel repulsed, annoyed, or even genuinely afraid of these little vermin. They have a reputation for carrying disease, for eating whatever they can find, and for being able to survive almost anything. But perhaps the biggest question you may want answered is, “Will they bite me?”
So Do Cockroaches Bite?
The simple answer is, “They might.” Cockroaches are omnivorous, so they’ll eat almost anything organic, whether plant or animal. However, they aren’t aggressive animals. They won’t bite you as a defense mechanism if you accidentally step on one. In those cases, they’re far more likely to try to run away and hide.
In most cases, cockroach bites occur because food has grown too scarce to support the cockroach population in a single environment. If given the choice between biting a human and foraging through the garbage, cockroaches will almost always choose the garbage (or the leftover food).
But, in instances of strong infestation where the amount of food available cannot sustain the population of cockroaches present, they could attempt to bite humans or pets. This is why it is of utmost importance that if an infestation is detected, it be controlled or exterminated as quickly as possible.
Avoiding Being Bitten
Keeping in mind that nearly the only reason a cockroach would ever bite a human is for food, it is advisable – if an infestation is detected – to avoid eating while in bed. Food residue on your mouth or hands while all the lights are off is a strong invitation for cockroaches to bite.
Again, this would mostly occur when other prominent food sources are unavailable, but it is valuable to remember it when you think you may have an infestation.
The most common areas for a cockroach to bite are around the hands, feet, fingernails, and eyelashes. These are areas where it can be easy for trace residues of food to linger, even in cases of good hygiene.
How Bad Are Cockroach Bites?
A cockroach bite generates red bumps that are slightly larger than mosquito bites and also appear as a tiny cluster of bumps rather than a single mound on the skin. Swelling and rashes also often accompany a cockroach bite. If you or your loved one is bitten, try to stay calm and remember some important facts. First, cockroaches are not venomous, so the bite itself carries no real threat to the victim.
However, a cockroach carries large amounts of bacteria with it, so the risk of infection is extremely high with a cockroach bite. Also, many people, particularly those who suffer from asthma, have been shown to be allergic to cockroaches and the bite may cause an allergic reaction. If any bite causes the victim to begin to suffer difficulty breathing, a medical professional should be consulted immediately.
How to Treat a Cockroach Bite
Once discovered, the bite area should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected immediately. Soap and water are important, but insufficient for cleaning a cockroach bite. Rubbing alcohol is perhaps the best and most accessible disinfectant for cleaning the bite area.
As uncomfortable as it may be, you need to pinch the bite area to force as many of the bacteria as possible into the actual bite. Then, using a cotton swab, dab the bite and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol. Avoid rinsing the alcohol off for several minutes to provide as much time as possible for the alcohol to disinfect the area.
If any sign of infection is present (swelling, pus, or discoloration), consult a doctor as soon as possible as antibiotic treatment may be required.
Bites from a cockroach can be mildly painful and very itchy, similar to mosquito bites. You should avoid scratching the area when it itches and use calamine lotion, aloe, or hydrocortisone to help keep the itchiness under control. The bitten area should remain covered until you are confident no infection is present and that the bite is healing.
To re-iterate, cockroach bites are rare, but they do occur. The best way to avoid them is to avoid infestation by keeping your home clean and taking action as soon as roaches are discovered. In the unlikely event of a bite, take full precautions against infection and consult a doctor immediately if infection does appear.