Bugs are a nuisance when they’re in our homes and businesses, but are they dangerous? The answer is yes; sometimes pests can pose serious health threats when allergic reactions occur from stings or bites. Unsanitary conditions conducive to pest infestations are also a health risk as some pests – like cockroaches – trigger asthma attacks. Here’s what you need to know about pest allergies:

A bite or sting from insects may only cause minor reactions like mild swelling, temporary pain, and redness. But often an allergic reaction occurs, producing itchiness, hives, and significant swelling, sometimes in areas other than where you were bitten. A more severe allergic reaction – anaphylaxis – can cause difficulty breathing, chest tightness, swelling of the tongue, nose, and throat, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea. If you have a history of allergic reactions to bug bites or bee stings, consider getting allergy shots or talk to your doctor about treatments you can use as self-medication when a reaction occurs.

The most common allergic reactions are from bee stings (yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, honeybees) and fire ant stings. You can prevent this by avoiding contact with bees (usually in underground nests, above-ground hives, around shrubbery, in trees, and under eaves of houses and commercial buildings) and fire ants (in and around above-ground ant mounds), keeping food and drinks covered when outdoors, and implementing a preventative pest control program. If you’re seeing bees or fire ants around your home, contact an exterminator; don’t attempt to get rid of them yourself. Bees especially can become aggressive when agitated.

Mosquitoesbed bugs, and fleas are other common pests that can also cause allergic reactions if bitten – usually marked by red bumps, itchiness, swelling, and/or pain. Life-threatening allergic reactions from these pests are uncommon.

Cockroaches can spark allergies, without biting or stinging you, through the waste they leave behind in your home. A cockroach infestation can cause sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, nose, or throat, runny nose, congestion, skin rashes, sinus & ear infections, and asthma attacks. The best way to prevent allergies related to roaches is with preventative pest control and by keeping a clean house – clean up spills immediately, take out the trash daily, store food in sealed containers, and get rid of clutter.