It isn’t common or usual behavior for cockroaches to bite. Sometimes cockroaches do bite pets or people, but only in extreme circumstances. In fact, cockroach bites are so rare that most people will never get one in their lifetime.
Roaches are instinctively fearful of humans and keep their distance. Thus, they do not often get physically close enough to bite people. But a cockroach may bite if the conditions are right.
What do cockroach bites look like?
Roach bites appear as raised red bumps on the skin, similar to mosquito bites, but larger. It can be difficult to differentiate a cockroach bite from other insect bites because they all look similar. Several roach bites might be clumped together in close proximity to each other.
Roach bites can be painful and itchy. An irritating skin rash sometimes accompanies roach bites around their circumference. Roaches don’t inject saliva into the skin like mosquitoes do when they bite, but roaches carry plenty of bacteria, and infection causes swelling and itchiness.
First aid for a cockroach bite
To treat a cockroach bite you may follow the same procedures as you would for a mosquito bite. First and foremost, don’t scratch or pick at a roach bite no matter how much it itches. This is a surefire way to promote infection. Most bites that are left untreated will go away on their own in a few days just like a mosquito bite, so there’s no need to be overly worried.
To promote healing and prevent infection, clean the bite wound twice daily with antibacterial soap and water. In between cleanings, keep the bite wound dry. Don’t go swimming because these are laden with bacteria. After cleaning, it is helpful to cover roach bites with gauze or a Band-Aid to protect them from bacteria. It will only be necessary to see a doctor if the roach bite turns into a serious skin infection.
Once the bite wound has healed and there is no open skin, you may apply topical over-the-counter medicines to help with the itching and swelling. Don’t do so before-hand though, because putting these medicines in an open wound will irritate and promote infection. Hydrocortisone cream 1% is a topical steroid that is great for insect bites and gets rid of rash, swelling, and itchiness. If you have calamine lotion in your medicine cabinet, you can also use this.
How long does a cockroach bite last?
A cockroach bite can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to go away on its own. In this respect it’s not so different from any other insect bite. The healing time depends upon many variables, such as the type of roach that bit you, the specific reaction your body has to that roach bite, and whether the bite ultimately gets a bacterial infection.
Cockroach bites on eyelid
Most roach bites occur at night while the victim was sleeping. Roach bites on the eyelid are common because roaches try to eat the sleep particles that form in our eyelashes while we sleep, leading to a roach bite on the eyelid.
These present a special challenge because of their proximity to the eye. Clean the eyelid bite wound with soap and water at least twice a day, but don’t try to cover it and don’t apply any topical medicine to the eyelid. Getting these medicines into the eye itself can be dangerous.
Other common locations for cockroach bites are on the lips and fingers. Food crumbs and residue often accumulate on the lips and fingers, attracting roaches. When sleeping, a roach maybe eating food particles off your fingers or lips which causes you to move or touch the roach. An instinctual response by the roach may be to bite you.
Are cockroach bites dangerous?
Cockroach bites cause anxiety and fear because people associate roaches with filth and disease. But the truth is that getting a cockroach bite does not pose a serious health risk. Don’t worry too much about it.
First off, you won’t acquire leprosy or other serious diseases from cockroach bites –it doesn’t happen. That is a myth. In fact roach bites are less dangerous than mosquito bites because mosquitoes are vectors for many diseases such as malaria, while cockroaches are not.
The worst thing that can happen to you from a cockroach bite is that it becomes infected with bacteria. Minor infections such as this are easily treated with topical antibacterial creams, or antibiotics if necessary. A roach bite only poses a serious threat to your health if it becomes seriously infected.
So don’t get too worked up emotionally if you think you have a cockroach bite. It’s only as serious as a mosquito bite. And a cockroach bite definitely won’t kill you.
How to prevent cockroach bites and get rid of roaches
It is important to understand that receiving roach bites indicate a significant roach infestation. When there is a large population, scarce resources force roaches to travel farther in search of food and water. This brings them in contact with sleeping humans and animals who may then be bitten.
Remember that for every cockroach you see, there are dozens more that you can not see. It is imperative that you take steps to eradicate the infestation to prevent more roach bites. I recommend you read my full article on how to get rid of roaches.
Tidy your kitchen and clean any food crumbs or scraps on tables, countertops, and floors. It is worth noting that some people may keep an immaculate home but still have roaches. This is especially true in apartments and condominiums where the infestation may stem from the uncleanliness of neighbors in adjacent housing.
Ensure that children in the household have clean skin when they go to sleep. Especially check that there is no food on or around the hands and mouth. Or else, in its search for food and water, a desperate cockroach may smell the remnants of food left on the skin and come closer for a snack.
Do-it-yourself roach killers
Here are a few things roaches hate:
- Boric roach powder: If you want to handle the job yourself, I recommend using boric roach powder. It is highly effective at killing roaches and also very inexpensive. Simply sprinkle it around the edges and corners of rooms, especially where food and water can be found, such as kitchen and bathrooms. Note to pet owners: Pets are generally avoidant of boric powder, but there have been rare cases where dogs that have ingested a substantial amount have incurred kidney damage. So be careful if you have a dog.
- Roach gel bait: A worthy alternative to roach powder, roach gel bait has the advantage of not needing to be applied as frequently. The gel stays in place longer, whereas roach powder disperses over time and is swept or vacuumed up. The sticky gel is a bit more difficult to clean up, however, if you apply it directly to the floor. So we recommend this neat trick to avoid the mess: cut small squares of cardboard and apply the roach gel to those instead of applying the product directly to home surfaces. Then place in the cardboard squares in strategic, hidden locations around your home.
- Bengal roach killer: Another great product is Bengal roach spray. Some people claim that Bengal roach killer is the best there is and that nothing else compares to it. If you have a tough roach infestation, give Bengal a shot.
Professional exterminator (call in the big guns)
Of course, a professional exterminator may be called upon if needed or preferred. If you rent your home or live in an apartment, notify the landlord of the presence of cockroaches in your home. Request that he have an exterminator come to take care of the problem. Many apartments will provide this service free of charge. It is also a good idea to keep a cockroach as a specimen to show the exterminator. That way he will know exactly what species or roach you are dealing with.