The connection between roaches and asthma
As parents, we spend most of our time protecting our children. We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We make sure they’re wearing helmets. We read nutrition labels and limit their screen time. Our desire is to protect them from all harm, but can we really?
No matter how much time and effort we put into their well-being, there will always be dangers that we are unable to control. Asthma is a condition that affects 8.4 percent of children in the United States. Even though this condition often develops on its own, we know that limiting exposure to certain triggers can decrease a child's likelihood to develop asthma or have asthmatic episodes when there is a preexisting condition. The third leading cause of asthma in children originates from the presence of cockroaches in the home. Ironically, a cockroach infestation is both treatable and preventable.
Cockroaches are one of the filthiest pests that can inhabit our homes. They can spread harmful contaminants wherever they go. Roaches are known to carry 33 different kinds of bacteria (including Salmonella and E. coli species), six types of parasitic worms and seven types of pathogens that cause disease in humans. According to the WHO, these roaches regurgitate parts of their food and drop feces as they travel. They have an unmistakable scent that comes from a gland secretion that can take over an entire home, wreaking havoc on air quality. According to the National Pest Management Association, 63% of US homes contain cockroach allergens, with an increase as high as 78% to 98% in urban areas. For children with cockroach allergen sensitivity, the presence of cockroaches can lead to severe asthmatic reactions.
Why do roaches cause asthma?
Cockroaches contain a protein that triggers allergies for many people in the same way that some people are allergic to cats. The protein can be found in body parts, saliva, and fecal matter. What’s scary is that these allergens act similarly to dust mites and become airborne for short periods of time before settling into dust and fabrics. The most common way the allergen is inhaled is by breathing in dust that has settled onto bedding and other fabrics. How scary is it that the items our children snuggle up to could in fact trigger an asthmatic episode?
What can you do to lower your risk of a roach infestation?
The first step is to keep your home clean. Dirty homes provide both food and shelter to cockroaches, so cleaning your home will help to prevent infestations. Proper sanitation of your home will also help to eliminate buildup of indoor allergens.
- Clean counter tops. Be mindful that the food crumbs you remove from the counter do not end up on the floor, underneath the edges of cabinets, and under appliances. When crumbs are left behind, roaches are provided with a food trail and the opportunity to leave their nasty little footprints behind (feces, gland secretions, and partially digested food).
- Clean your floors. Mopping, sweeping, and vacuuming floors should be done on a regular basis.
- Roaches are drawn to water sources and electricity, so pay attention to appliances that use both, like dishwashers, coffee pots, and refrigerators. Stay on the lookout for water leaks that may foster damp and humid spaces in your home.
- Remember to avoid accumulating piles of items like newspapers, clothing, and dishes.
What should I do if I see roaches in my home?
If you see signs of roaches in your home, there are DIY options available if you catch them early. Most home improvement stores offer products to treat for roaches. Whether you choose a bait or liquid product, be sure to always follow the instructions on the label. The packaging should also inform you if special protective gear is needed to use the product, like eye wear and gloves. If DIY is not your cup of tea, professional pest control companies are well equipped to treat and prevent infestations.
While keeping roaches out of your home is incredibly important to prevent asthma and other respiratory issues, remember that if your child or another family member shows signs of asthma to seek a professional opinion from your doctor. While prevention and control methods can be effective, there may still be a need for medical treatment. If a cockroach allergen causes an asthmatic reaction, there may also be other underlying triggers that you need to be aware of.
If you find that your home is infested, consider a professional pest control company to eliminate the cockroaches. The most effective treatment products are typically only available to licensed professionals and multiple treatments are often necessary to gain full control over and eradicate roaches. Companies will often provide quarterly options to prevent common household pests. For a similar rate, a Cingo plan covers every single pest - from roaches and spiders to squirrels and fleas.