Last updated: April 2022
Allergies often accompany asthma. They are separable, although many asthmatics experience flares because of seasonal allergies or other allergen triggers. Interestingly, a common allergen is not often discussed, which most people find quite gross. Most of our allergens would be exterminated if they were exposed to a nuclear blast, however, this one allegedly wouldn’t? I’m talking, of course, about cockroaches. The notoriously evasive and resilient pests that are a trigger for many people who experience chronic allergies.
These pests are a worldwide issue. In fact, there are about 4,000 known species of cockroach, spread across every continent--even Antarctica. Roaches are most commonly found in cities, with as high as 85% of urban homes testing positive for cockroach allergens.1 There is no environment that does not host the roach; even radioactive areas have an infestation. So, moving away from them is not quite like moving away from a pollen allergy.
The allergens of cockroach are a serious issue for asthmatics and are a more common trigger than most would expect. There are 12 known heterogeneous protein structures that are produced by the saliva, body, and waste of cockroaches.1 This can make it difficult to create allergy sensitization treatments and creates levels of complexity for researchers.
Symptoms of a cockroach allergy
The symptoms of a cockroach allergy are not so unique. The reaction that most people experience is similar to other allergens.
Common cockroach allergy symptoms include:2,3
If your allergy triggers your asthma, you would experience many of the same symptoms that you are familiar with. For more information on allergies and asthma, this article should have helpful information.
Treatment of cockroach allergies with asthma
If you do suspect a cockroach allergy is affecting you and your asthma, then contacting your doctor about an allergy test might be a good next step. If you do test positive, your doctor could recommend allergy shots, which may help the severity of the allergy.
The National Pest Management Association reports that 63% of homes in the U.S. have cockroaches--with as high as 98% in some urban areas.3 So, the chances of exposure to these allergens are high, especially in denser populations. There are some ways that you can limit your exposure to cockroaches and their allergens. Being proactive is never a bad idea.
Some tips for limiting exposure:3
- Keep your house clean, especially in the kitchen where cockroaches may be drawn to crumbs.
- Keep food containers and garbage cans sealed.
- Fix any leaks that may allow cockroaches access to water.
- Avoid piles that they can reside in. This includes piles of newspapers, laundry, magazines or dirty dishes.
If you have concerns about cockroaches in your living area, it may be best to consult a pest control company or exterminator.
Cockroaches are undesirable but they are everywhere, literally. As people with asthma, if we have an allergy to the common roach, it will affect us more than most others. Talk to a doctor if you suspect a cockroach allergy so you can make an appointment to confirm. Take action towards limiting your exposure to the allergen as well by being proactive. Keeping tidy is always a good practice, with or without asthma.
Do you have a cockroach allergy? Share your experience with us.
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