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Cockroach Allergen Levels Remain Despite Efforts

By Chris Williams on December 18, 2013.

Being allergic to roaches

Question

My 5-year old daughter has asthma and tests positive for cockroach allergens. We live in an apartment so cockroaches are an occasional problem. I paid out of my own pocket for a very thorough pest control treatment 6 months ago. We haven’t seen a cockroach since but my daughter still has asthma. Do you think there could still be cockroaches hidden somewhere that we’ve missed?

Answer

Of course, you can’t be certain that there are not still some surviving cockroaches. An overlooked cockroach egg case could hatch after treatment or new cockroaches could have snuck in from next door. The problem, though, is that cockroach allergens are not just carried on the bodies of cockroaches. Cockroach allergens are proteins found in cockroach feces, saliva, shed skins, egg cases, and on the bodies of dead cockroaches. Unfortunately, killing the cockroaches doesn’t eliminate the allergens. Even cleaning doesn’t eliminate all of the allergens.

The allergen proteins are very resistant to cleaning and can last for years. Cleaning can even cause the allergens to become airborne where they can be inhaled or can settle on new surfaces. Some allergen sources like cockroach feces and egg cases are found in cracks and crevices and hidden areas where cleaning doesn’t reach.

In one Maryland research study, cockroaches were eliminated from 17 inner-city homes. The homes were then thoroughly and repeatedly cleaned, eventually dropping allergen levels from 80-90%. Even at that low level, though, the allergens were still above the level that could cause asthma symptoms in sensitive people. In another study, the researchers found that cockroach allergens could be reduced by reducing cockroach infestations, but that the amount of allergen reduction depends greatly on the thoroughness of the treatment. Make sure you contract with a highly reputable pest control company that understands what’s at stake.

Reduce Allergen Accumulation With Early Intervention

If you have an asthmatic child, it’s important to eliminate cockroach infestations as early as possible. The longer a cockroach infestation has gone on in a home, the greater the accumulation of cockroach allergen material that later will be impossible to remove completely.

Eliminating cockroaches will certainly remove some allergens and will reduce future allergen accumulation. While thorough cleaning doesn’t eliminate all of the allergens present, it may reduce the remaining allergen to a low enough level that it won’t trigger a response in all asthmatics. Of course, the key is prevention, not letting cockroaches and their allergens build up in the first place.

In your case, if you haven’t had a thorough, deep cleaning of your apartment, you should arrange for one (make sure your daughter is not home during the process). Then continue with regular pest control service, and regular cleaning, to assure that cockroaches do not reinfest your apartment.

 

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