Cockroaches May Be Primary Allergen Culprit

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Story Updated: Sep 12, 2012

Allergy season is in full swing in many parts of the nation as spring sprung much earlier than usual. However, pollen may not be the only culprit behind watery eyes and sneezing fits. Few people know that cockroaches can trigger allergies and cause asthma in children.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) reports that one in five children in the United States has severe sensitivities to cockroach allergens, while the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has found that 78 to 98 percent of urban homes have cockroach problems.

Cockroach allergens in homes are the result of cockroach saliva and droppings and the decomposing bodies of these pests. Allergic reactions vary from skin rashes to congestion to asthma attacks. Since children are more sensitive to asthma attacks, and asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, it's especially important to keep homes free of cockroaches.

"When most people think of allergy and asthma triggers, they probably think of pollen, pet hair and dust first and do not think of cockroaches," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. "However, cockroaches contribute to indoor allergies and are known to trigger asthma attacks with an increased incidence in small children."

In addition to being a culprit of allergies and asthma, cockroaches spread 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and salmonella, six parasitic worms and more than seven other types of human pathogens.

The NPMA offers these cockroach-prevention tips for families:

* Vacuum often to reduce accumulation of cockroach allergens.

* Put garbage in sealed containers, and dispose of it regularly to avoid attracting pests.

* Check under sinks and appliances regularly.

* Keep all food in sealed containers to prevent infestations.

* Properly ventilate basements and crawl spaces to prevent moisture.

* Seal cracks and holes around utility pipes that enter the home to prevent easy access for cockroaches.

* If you find signs of a cockroach infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the pest problem.

To learn more about cockroaches, pest management or finding a local pest professional, visit www.pestworld.org.