Cockroaches have adapted to survive in many environments. Once cockroaches invade your home, they can expose you to several kinds of diseases. Cockroaches consume garbage, rotting food and even fecal waste of other roaches. They then transmit disease to your food, eating utensils, kitchen surfaces and other areas around your home.
Cockroaches can pick up salmonella on the hair of their legs when crawling on contaminated food. A cockroach can keep bacterial pathogens, including salmonella, in its digestive system for a month, indicates Aerias Air Quality Sciences. Salmonella causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
Those with allergies can develop adverse reactions to cockroach fecal waste or decomposing roach matter, notes the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Asthma attacks, skin rashes, sneezing and congestion can all occur with exposure to roaches. Asthmatic children who live in homes with large cockroach populations are three times more likely to become hospitalized for their condition, according to Aerias Air Quality Sciences. Allergens produced in the fecal waste of roaches can also become airborne, making it possible to inhale the allergens.
Cockroaches can also carry Staphylococcus pneumoniae, which can cause a variety of infections. In children, ear infections will occur, which includes symptoms of ear pain, fever and balancing problems. In the elderly, Staphylococcus pneumoniae can cause more serious health effects. Pneumonia can develop, leading to fever, coughing, inability to catch your breath and chest pain. Streptococcus pneumoniae can also cause pink eye. Pink eye develops as a watery discharge from the affected eye. The afflicted eye can develop redness, itching and a sensation of having sand in your eye.
Other disease-borne agents carried by cockroaches include E. coli, various forms of roundworms, poliomyelitis and Shigella. E. coli can cause diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Roundworms can cause a host of symptoms depending on the type. Pinworms can cause severe itching and restlessness, especially at night. Tapeworms can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite and nausea, accompanied by diarrhea. Shigella affects the intestines, causing bloody diarrhea. Though poliomyelitis isn't a common disease in the United States, it still affects many in lesser developed countries. The disease causes stiffness, muscle spasms, flu-like symptoms and fatigue.