Cockroaches are pretty disgusting. They scurry around your kitchen and bathroom, leaving behind a trail of slime that is smelly and gross to clean up. You might not think they would want anything to do with you or your family, but cockroaches can bite! So how does this work?
A cockroach bites by using its back set of jaws, which are called the maxillae. The maxilla closes in on one another just like a pair of scissors to puncture the skin and deliver saliva containing digestive enzymes into the wound.
This saliva contains proteins that help break down any food particles found in the human skin for ingestion by the roach.
A person with a roach bite will often experience intense pain and swelling. This is because the saliva may also contain an allergic agent that can trigger an inflammatory or allergic response in some people.
A number of factors, including how much saliva enters the wound, might affect when symptoms show up and what they are like.
See our section on allergies for more information about these potential consequences. Fatalities from cockroaches have been recorded but usually only happen in severe cases where there is already poor health, to begin with.
The risk of death increases if someone has asthma as well as other chronic respiratory conditions such as emphysema or bronchiectasis. In addition, heavy alcohol use makes one’s immune system weaker.