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Cockroaches and Asthma in Children

By Chris Williams on November 30, 2011.

Q. Can cockroaches give you asthma?

A. Yes. There have been a number of studies that have shown that living with cockroaches can lead to asthma, especially for children. This seems to be a little known fact because a nationwide survey found that only 10% of homeowners feel that cockroaches are a threat to their family’s health.

Asthma affects one out of every 14 school-aged children in the U.S., and that percentage is even higher for low-income children in inner cities. For an inner city child, cockroaches are much more likely to trigger asthma than pets or dust mites, and the results are more severe. When investigators examined hundreds of severely asthmatic children from eight major U.S. cities, they found that those allergic to cockroaches were three times more likely to be hospitalized than were other asthmatic children. They also missed school more often, needed nearly twice as many unscheduled asthma-related medical visits, and suffered through more nights with lost sleep.

cockroachResearchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that allergic effects from cockroaches were greatest in high-rise apartments in Northeastern U.S. cities. In the Inner City Asthma Study, the percentage of asthmatic children who tested positive for cockroach allergen ranged from 59% to 81%. Lest you think it’s only children who suffer from cockroach-induced asthma, studies have found that cockroach allergen is also the most common cause of asthma in the elderly. A study of elderly asthmatic patients found that 47% were sensitive to cockroach allergens.

The cockroach allergens that cause asthma are proteins that come from several sources, including cockroach fecal material, secretions, saliva, shed cockroach skins, and dead cockroach bodies. These proteins are left in places that cockroaches frequent. Not surprisingly, cockroach allergens are highest in kitchen areas.

Unfortunately, research has also found that getting rid of the cockroaches doesn’t get rid of all the allergens, and the allergens are extremely resistant to cleaning. Cockroach allergens can remain at levels high enough to cause symptoms for many months after the cockroaches are gone. Significant levels of allergen were found in approximately 20 percent of homes reported to be “cockroach-free.” High levels of allergens remain in cockroach feces and most cockroach feces is deposited in the cracks and crevices where they hide, areas that are difficult to reach for cleaning. So, the key is to not let cockroaches and their allergens build up in the first place. If your attempts to get rid of cockroaches on your own are not working, give Colonial a call. We guarantee to rid your home of cockroaches.

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