Allergies are common, but some types of allergies are less well known than others. This includes an allergy to cockroaches. Because they adapt easily to almost any environment, cockroaches are found in almost every part of the world, regardless of climate. However, they can be a bit of a problem because they prefer warmth and dark places, making them gravitate toward buildings and homes.
In many cases, it’s hard to recognize that this is the cause of allergies, since it’s a year round problem. However, it’s extremely common. Take a look at five things you need to know about cockroach allergy to help recognize symptoms, dangers, and possible treatments.
1. The cause of cockroach allergy
Cockroaches have a certain protein in their bodies that cause allergic reactions in humans, making this protein an allergen. Because proteins don’t dissolve in death, it doesn’t matter if the cockroach is alive or dead – it can still cause a reaction. Exposure to waste, saliva, or body parts can trigger a reaction, related to the immune system.
2. Effects on children
Cockroach allergies are an even bigger problem for children than adults. Because the protein in cockroaches can trigger asthma and cause attacks, it is dangerous for asthmatics. In fact, studies show that children with an allergy to cockroaches are more likely to go to the hospital for asthma than children with asthma that don’t have an allergy.
3. Common symptoms of cockroach allergy
As with other allergies, a cockroach allergy produces a number of symptoms that can range from mild discomfort to severe, including:
- Sneezing and itchy nose
- Itchy mouth and throat
- Stuffy or runny nose (or both)
- Itchy skin
- Skin rashes
Symptoms that can occur in people with asthma who also have an allergy to the protein in cockroaches include:
- Tight or painful chest
- Problematic breathing
- Shortness of breath that causes difficulty sleeping
- Whistling or wheezing while breathing (which can also disrupt sleep)
When experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a doctor, who may suggest a treatment based on your description or may order a skin prick to test the potential allergen.
4. Avoiding exposure to cockroaches
Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to avoid exposure to cockroaches. For example, in close spaces like apartments, where you can’t control what other neighbors do, it requires a lot of diligence to minimize the presence of cockroaches. Some areas of the country are also more prone to cockroach populations than others. However, precautions can be taken to help reduce or negate the presence of cockroaches and exposure to allergens at home.
Some ways to help protect against cockroach allergies are:
- Covering all trash cans tightly, as cockroaches are drawn to trash and especially food leftovers in the trash.
- Keeping all shelved food in airtight containers to avoid creepy-crawlies from finding their way into your food stores.
- Sweeping and vacuum so that you aren’t leaving crumbs anywhere that may attract bugs, including cockroaches.
- Removing excess pet food from the bowl when your pet doesn’t finish the helping, or reducing the amount given at once if this is a constant problem, since cockroaches don’t distinguish between human and animal food.
- Washing all of your dirty dishes rather than letting them pile up, which will quickly and easily attract cockroaches to your kitchen.
- Sealing any wall or floor cracks to reduce the number of entrances cockroaches have to crawl into your home.
- Fixing any leaking pipes in any areas of your home, since these are easy ways for cockroaches to enter (and they enjoy warm, damp, and dark places).
- Setting up baits and traps for cockroaches in dark areas of the home and the kitchen.
Don’t use sprays to kill cockroaches, since these are also allergens and could potentially be just as much of a problem for those with severe allergies or asthma. Taking these precautions can improve quality of life quickly for those who suffer from cockroach allergy.
5. Treatments for cockroach allergy
Limiting exposure to cockroaches is the best treatment for cockroach allergies. However, as mentioned, this could be difficult in certain circumstances. Therefore, it’s also important to know about both prescription and over the counter methods that help reduce the symptoms of this allergy.
- Antihistamines – Allergens prompt the body to produce histamine, which is a substance the body uses to chase the allergen out of the body. This typically results in things like production of excess mucus, sneezing, and other symptoms that are related to an “allergic reaction”. Antihistamines treat those symptoms, reducing the irritation of an allergic reaction. They are available in liquid, pill, or nasal spray format, both over the counter and by prescription, and they are excellent solutions for a cockroach allergy.
- Corticosteroids – A lot of people hear “steroids” and get nervous. However, a corticosteroid doesn’t work like the steroids that build muscle at outrageous rates. It isn’t the sort of thing that gets athletes in trouble. Rather, corticosteroids are known for “breaking down” unwanted substances. Available as a nasal spray, corticosteroids can be extremely effective in blocking allergic reactions, such as those triggered by a cockroach allergy. They can reduce or negate all symptoms, including congestion, and they have few side effects, which makes them ideal for treatment.
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA) – This is a new type of treatment doctors are prescribing to asthmatics that help treat long term asthma and acute asthma attacks. They are available in pill form and combine the effects of other treatments, offering both bronchodilation (expanding of the airways) and anti-inflammation (reduction of swelling in the airways). These are available by prescription and can be helpful against cockroach allergies in asthmatics.
- Cromolyn sodium – Derived from a healing herb, cromolyn sodium has properties that expand the airways and has become an acceptable alternative to heavier medications to help maintain expanded airways and reduce the likelihood of inflammation in the respiratory system. That means it can be used in a preventative way against the effects of a cockroach allergy for asthmatics. It’s also easy to administer, made into a nasal spray solution.
- Decongestants – These can be found over the counter in the form of nasal spray, pill, liquid, or drops. A decongestant reduces inflammation by shrinking the lining of nasal paths and, therefore, relieves congestion and stuffiness. However, be careful because prolonged use of these can cause other irritating symptoms, ranging from elevated blood pressure to sleeplessness and should only be a temporary solution.
If none of these suffice, a doctor may prescribe allergy shots, which is a form of immunotherapy (using your own immune system to solve the problem).
Allergies affect about one out of every five people, and asthma affects about one in ten, making both major conditions to consider. A cockroach allergy is just as detrimental to health as any other allergy. Taking care to reduce the effects of the allergen is vital to maintaining health and happiness.