Bug allergy risks

I think it is important for you to know that there is a possibility for you to be allergic, or to become allergic, to the bug species you want to keep.

Disclaimer note

We talk here about possible allergies induced by handling (contact) or taking care of bug pets. This article is not about ingestion or any other kind of allergies. When having doubts if you have a bug allergy always make contact with a doctor or allergist.

You can have an allergic reaction from the beginning of keeping a particular bug species. However, it can also occur that you build up an allergic reaction. This built-up is particularly the case when handling the bug itself or when you make contact with their faeces, moult skin or saliva.

Unfortunately, dust from the faeces and shivers of their moult skin can get whirling in the air, so in that way, you still can have an allergic reaction.

Not everybody develops an allergy to particular bugs, and it is even so that when you react to one certain bug species doesn’t automatic means you react to another.

However, factors that may increase your chance of bug allergies include:

  • Family history of allergy for (certain) bugs
  • History of other types of allergies, including hay fever and shellfish allergy
  • People who have a form of asthma are more susceptive
  • Occupations that expose you to bugs regular

Preventive measures to reduce allergy development

There are ways to reduce the risk of developing an allergic reaction. These actions will not eliminate the development of allergies but positively contribute that you can enjoy your bugs in the future.

You can start with using disposable latex gloves with everything you do with your hands during cleaning and handling of the bugs. The additional benefit of doing this is decreasing the possibilities of cross-contamination, at least, if you change gloves with every bug species or enclosure. It would be a good habit to use these gloves when working with your bugs. This would also be (and maybe especially) the case when handling feeder insects, as you’ll read in the next section.

You can also use a facemask to reduce the amount of dust and allergens you’ll breathe in during cleaning. The use of facemasks is specifically desirable when ventilation of the room is not optimal or is limited. It is also advisable when you take care of your bugs daily (and even more when using and breeding live feeder insects every day or on a large scale).

Couple of known bug allergies

There are allergies for some bugs documented. Below are the bugs where it is known that allergies can develop when handling them regularly. Obviously, this list is limited to the more known allergies and does not make any guarantee that when your bug is not listed below, that you can’t develop an allergy for them.

Cockroaches

Allergy of cockroaches is one of the most documented allergies. Maybe because it is the one allergy that most people have? It is not only an allergic reaction after direct contact but also from contact with their frass (faeces), shedding body parts or saliva.

Symptoms that are described are irritation of the skin, eyes, nasal congestion, coughing or sneezing more in the proximity of cockroaches. It is documented that people with asthma may be affected more or quicker to an allergic reaction.

Locusts and grasshoppers

There are some occupational allergic reactions recorded on contact with locusts and grasshoppers or their faeces which may cause an allergic reaction. Also, in this case, people with asthma seem to be more sceptical to, and more affected by, an allergic reaction.

Millipedes and centipedes

There is some documentation about allergic reactions in some individuals to the fluids millipedes release when they feel in danger. However, this type of allergic reaction seems to be very rare. Symptoms are skin rash and irritation.

The same goes by the venomous bite of centipedes. By most individuals, you’ll see a moderate reaction similar to a bee sting. When you are allergic to insect venoms, you may suffer a severe reaction to a bit from centipedes.

Crickets

When you have an allergic reaction to cockroaches, it seems that you also may be allergic to crickets and their shedding body parts. Also, allergies for crickets appear to be very rare, and there is not much documentation on this subject.

Symptoms that have been described are mostly from eating crickets. But you can also get symptoms such as irritation of the skin and eyes, coughing, sneezing and asthma in the proximity of crickets.

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