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Nasal Allergy Trigger: Cockroaches

Nobody likes cockroaches. They're icky and spread germs. But did you know that cockroaches are also a major allergy and asthma trigger?

Cockroach Allergy Facts

  • Cockroach allergies -- and cockroaches -- are most common in cities. Between 78% and 98% of homes in urban areas have cockroaches.
  • Up to 60% of people with asthma who live in cities are allergic to cockroaches.
  • Due to the warmer climate, cockroach allergy is especially common in the South, particularly in low-income families. But cockroaches can invade anyone's home.
  • Specifically, people seem to be allergic to the saliva, waste, and bodies of cockroaches.

Symptoms of Cockroach Allergy

  • Chronic stuffy nose
  • Frequent ear and sinus infections
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Asthma symptoms, like a cough that doesn’t go away, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness

Cockroach allergy can also cause rashes.

If your doctor thinks you have a cockroach allergy, you may need skin tests to be sure.

Controlling Cockroach Allergy

Cockroaches are good at hiding in walls and cracks. You may not even know they're there. Experts say that if you see just one roach in your house, about 800 could be nearby but out of sight.

The first thing you need to do is reduce your contact with cockroaches. That means making changes around your house.

  • Seal all food in jars or plastic containers. If cockroaches don't find anything to eat, they may go somewhere else.
  • Keep your kitchen and dining room clean. Vacuum and mop regularly. Wipe up spills and clean up crumbs right away.
  • Keep a lid on your kitchen trash.
  • Don't leave your pet's food out in a bowl.
  • Reduce clutter. Roaches can hide behind piles of newspapers or boxes. They may eat paper, too.
  • Check pipes for leaks under sinks and in the basement. Cockroaches like damp places. 
  • Use cockroach baits. Boric acid may help. Make sure to keep baits away from children or pets.

Medical treatments will help as well.

  • Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medication will control symptoms. If you have asthma, follow your doctor's instructions about medicines.
  • Allergy shots can help ease your allergy symptoms. You'll get a series of shots over several years.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 23, 2012

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