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Insects and Asthma

By Chris Williams on February 2, 2012.

There are lots of reasons why its’ not a good idea to share your home with insects; from structural damage caused by carpenter ants; to food borne illnesses that can be spread by houseflies; general aesthetics etc., but one more reason is asthma.

So what exactly is asthma? Medical professionals define it as a chronic lung disease that inflames and constricts airways marked by symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/)

The exact cause of asthma remains unknown, but scientists believe that a combination of family history and environmental factors interact to cause the disease.  One of these factors is contact with airborne allergens, and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that insects (especially cockroaches) play and important role in the mix of ‘triggers’ that includes dust, pollen, animal dander, etc.  Cockroach allergy has been known about for decades. It was first described in the early 1940s’ and subsequent studies in the 1970s’ offered the first proof that sensitized individuals could develop acute asthma attacks after inhaling cockroach allergens. It is thought that the cockroach allergen itself may be derived from feces, saliva, or insect body parts. (Asthma &Allergy Foundation)  Researchers have also concluded “the combination of cockroach allergy and exposure to high levels of this allergen may help explain the frequency of asthma-related health problems in inner city children” (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199705083361904

asthmaYou may be saying to yourself, that’s awful news, but I live in a single family home and have never had a cockroach problem so I should be okay, right?  There are many different insects capable of causing allergic/asthmatic reactions (moths, flies, and various beetles, Gupta et al.) but the one getting attention lately is the Asian Lady Beetle.  According to a recent study, there has been a significant increase in allergic sensitization to this species of lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) because of its tendency to migrate inside (in large numbers) to escape colder weather. About half of the respondents reported some form of sensitivity to the insects leading one researcher to state that lady beetle allergy may be as common as sensitization to cockroaches or cats. (http://www.medpagetoday.com/AllergyImmunology/Allergy/2797

About 12 percent of the participants reported symptoms that included runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and acute asthma.

If you’ve had problems with Asian Lady beetles invading your home during the fall months, give Colonial a call.  Our semi-annual service is perfect for stopping occasional invaders like these from harming your family’s health.

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