Beyond Structural Damage: How Common Household Pests Affect Your Health

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Blog

Many people worry about how pests will affect the structure of their home. For example, termites are concerning because they eat through wood, causing serious damage. Mice chew on wires, increasing the risk of house fires. Cockroaches also cause structural issues. However, structural problems are not the only reason why people should be concerned about home pests.

Most pests bring with them a host of health problems, which can directly affect the health and well-being of you and your family. To fully assess the risks of pest infestations, learn about how common household pests affect your health on a daily basis.

Mice and Rats

Mice and rats are dirty animals that you don’t want to share your home with. They are carriers of other pests, including fleas and lice. But their urine and droppings can also carry pathogens that lead to serious illness. Rodents can spread diseases like:

  • Rat bite fever. Carried in rats in both North America and Asia, RBF is a bacterial illness that causes serious symptoms, including fever, vomiting, muscle pain, and headaches. You don’t even have to be bitten by a rat to contract the illness. Contact with an infected rat is enough to get you sick.
  • Hantavirus. Carried by deer mice, hantavirus causes significant respiratory distress and can even be fatal. You can get hantavirus from touching mouse urine or droppings or just breathing the contaminated air.
  • Typhus. While not as common anymore, typhus outbreaks can still occur where rat populations are high. It comes from fleas that are normally carried by rats.
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis. LCM is caused by a virus carried by mice in North America. The virus is contracted when you come into contact with fresh droppings, urine, saliva, or even just the nesting material of infected mice. Symptoms start mild but progress to very severe, including brain swelling and other neurological concerns.

As you can see, rodents of all kinds are not suitable for sharing a human habitat. When working with a mouse or rat problem, wear a breathing mask when cleaning, use gloves when disposing of dead animals, and rely on an extermination company for help with severe infestations.


Generally, the worst risk for people is from cockroach droppings, shells, and other waste that they leave behind. These remains can be irritating to the respiratory system, especially for people who already have allergies or asthma.

Children, especially, are most at risk to experience coughing, runny nose, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing because of cockroaches in the home. Children’s immune systems are not as mature, and they spend more time at home than adults, increasing their exposure.

Cockroaches also spread foodborne pathogens because they spend a lot of time in and around the areas where humans eat, picking up crumbs and snacking on leftovers. They can leave droppings anywhere they walk, spreading bacteria and parasites from their own bodies to the surfaces you use to prepare food. Salmonella is easily spread by cockroaches.


Most people don’t think of fleas when they think of household pests, but fleas can cause serious damage to your health and home. Fleas enter the home on animals, usually pets, who have not been treated for flea prevention. They generally prefer animals to humans, but fleas will still bite humans, and they carry a number of diseases.

Fleas can jump, and if they find suitable food sources in a home, there is the possibility of home infestation. Getting rid of a flea problem usually takes a professional intervention. You can easily prevent home flea infestations by making sure your animals stay up-to-date on flea treatments.

Fleas can cause cat scratch fever, tapeworm infections, allergies, infected bite sites, and other health issues. And you don’t have to get bitten by a flea to feel their effects. You can get a tapeworm simply by swallowing an affected flea by accident.


Most people don’t have to think about whether or not termites are harmful. The threat to the home is usually enough for people to realize the need for treatment. However, termites can also cause health problems that may be quite serious.

Termite nests can be irritating to those with allergies and asthma. Termites also leave a fine sawdust in their wake that can cause skin irritation. Also, termites can bite or sting if they feel threatened. The bites are not life-threatening, but they can be quite painful.

Termites also attract mold. Termites help break down wood, which attracts additional moisture and heat to the wood. And termites carry mold spores with them as they move through the house. A mold infestation can cause respiratory distress and even neurological problems.

Many people also inadvertently cause some health issues because they try to get rid of termites with strong, store-bought chemical agents. These can be very harmful if applied incorrectly or if stored in the home where they can be accessed by children. Always rely on a pest control company for termite treatment to avoid accidental pesticide poisoning.

For more information on common household pests, request a free quote with Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management.