Cicadas 101: Is Your Health at Risk?

Posted on June 3, 2024 by Published by

It’s time. Billions of cicadas are beginning to emerge in Midwest and Southeast states after 13-17 years underground. Although they are only here for a short time to mate, it’s almost guaranteed you will come face to face with this rarity.

These unwelcomed visitors may have you questioning how they impact your health.

Can cicadas hurt you?

A cicada may land on you when you are enjoying time outdoors. The good news is that they do not bite or sting. Cicadas also are not poisonous to the touch or the crops we eat.

“While cicadas are harmless, it’s important to not let your guard down this summer when it comes to mosquitos and ticks since both can potentially carry harmful diseases,” says Dr. Kevin Koo, a family medicine physician at Advocate Health Care. “Applying insect repellant, wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, and avoiding wooded areas can help prevent bites.”

Can they damage your hearing?

These insects are notoriously loud – reaching up to 90-100 decibels. Although noises above 85 decibels can potentially damage your hearing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says duration is an important factor.

“Brief noise exposure slightly above the healthy noise threshold from cicadas shouldn’t cause long-term hearing problems,” says Dr. Koo.

Why does the buzzing sound make you anxious?

Cicadas use a high pitch, repetitive, buzzing noise to mate.

“Some people, especially those with autism, experience hypersensitivity to certain noises,” explains Dr. Koo. “This can result in a physical or emotional reaction to the overbearing sound.”

Can you eat cicadas?

Believe it or not, some people ate cicadas back in 2021 when the eastern states experienced their own cicada invasion. The Food and Drug Administration even tweeted, “Yep! We have to say it! Don’t eat #cicadas if you’re allergic to seafood as these insects share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters.”

Article contributed by: Anna Kohler

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