Cockroach allergies are remarkably common, and some researchers believe the incidence is rising. One-third of people with other documented allergies are sensitive to cockroaches, but so are up to 12 percent of individuals without any other known allergies.
Cockroach allergies may be dangerous to people with asthma, as exposure may cause severe attacks in over half of those diagnosed. Even if you've never seen a cockroach in your home, the allergen may be present. It is not necessarily a reflection of the cleanliness of your home. Cockroaches live in walls and other places you cannot see or easily clean.
Where Cockroaches Live
Cockroach allergies are most common in southern states, but that’s not the only region where they occur. The bugs thrive in moist, humid climates, and abide in cracks, crevices and spaces between walls.
Unclean surfaces and uncovered food can make a home more susceptible to a cockroach infestation. Yet cockroaches can congregate wherever food and warmth are present. This can include restaurants, hospitals, and bakeries as well as upscale urban dwellings.
Cockroach allergies can cause sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, cough and other symptoms common to allergic rhinitis. As in other common allergies, symptoms can range from mild to severe. But cockroach allergies may have especially dangerous health consequences to children.
One study showed that kids who were allergic to cockroaches were hospitalized for asthma 3.3 times more often than other children—including children with allergies to dust mites or cats. Twenty-three percent to 60 percent of city dwellers with asthma are allergic to cockroaches. Some researchers believe that the rise in cases of asthma among urban children is due to increased contact with cockroach allergens, especially since kids play indoors more than they used to. Proteins in cockroach feces, saliva and bodies are thought to be the major culprit in triggering allergic responses.
Cockroach Avoidance: Reduce Cockroach Exposure
- Consult a cockroach control specialist. Let the specialist know there is someone living in the home with asthma if spraying is recommended.
- Use roach traps, poison baits or boric acid. Avoid using poisons around small children and pets.
- Do not leave food or trash out. Empty the garbage every day.