If You Notice This When You Breathe, Call an Exterminator Immediately
Many people never realize the root cause of these respiratory symptoms.
More than 50 million people living in the U.S. experience allergy symptoms each year, making them the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the nation. However, there are still some types of allergies that are virtually unheard of, despite wreaking havoc on our health. Experts say there's one type of allergy caused by pests in the home—and many people don't realize that an infestation could be the root cause of their symptoms. In more severe cases, this can cause a range of serious respiratory symptoms that can wreak havoc on your health. Read on to find out when it's time to call an exterminator.
If you have these symptoms when you breathe, you may have cockroaches.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), many people suffer from cockroach allergies without realizing it. The symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, itchy nose or throat, post-nasal drip, skin rash, and cough. In more severe cases, the allergy can trigger asthma symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest pain, wheezing, and sleep apnea. Unlike seasonal allergies, these symptoms tend to persist year-round when a cockroach allergy is to blame.
Your house doesn't need to be overrun with cockroaches to trigger symptoms.
As the AAFA explains, protein from the bugs' "body parts, saliva and waste" can become airborne or settle into your dust-trapping fabrics, causing an allergic reaction. You're most likely to come into contact with these allergens in areas of the home that support an infestation. Because cockroaches are most comfortable where there's food and water, the kitchen often contains the highest concentration of allergens. Your bedroom and other places where you come into direct contact with contaminated fabric are also hot spots for cockroach allergens.
However, you don't need to have a noticeable infestation to experience the allergy, according to the American Lung Association. "Cockroaches don't need to be present for there to be cockroach allergen in your home," says the organization. "One in five homes with no history of cockroach infestation has a significant level of allergen in dust and fabrics." In other words, if you're sensitive to these allergens, you don't need many roaches to cause a problem.
Your doctor can help you determine if a cockroach allergy is to blame for your symptoms.
While it is often difficult to distinguish between cockroach allergies and dust mite allergies, your doctor can help assess the cause underlying your symptoms. To get to the root of the problem, they may give you a physical exam, ask questions about your home hygiene, or order a skin prick test or IgE blood test, the AAFA says.
It may be especially important for children presenting with these symptoms to be assessed for a cockroach allergy. The AAFA notes that researchers are currently evaluating evidence which suggests that early exposure to cockroach allergens may actually "cause asthma to develop in preschool-aged children;" the ALA adds that "children who are allergic to cockroaches, and are exposed to them, need to go to the hospital for asthma more often than other children with asthma."
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Calling in a professional may help reduce your risk of a serious problem.
Experts say there are several things you can do to minimize your risk of a cockroach allergy. First, if you know for certain that your home has an infestation, it's time to call an exterminator.
Next, make your home less hospitable to a future pest infestation by cleaning it thoroughly. This means keeping your kitchen free of any food scraps, never leaving dirty dishes in the sink, sealing your garbage cans, and scrubbing areas like the stove or refrigerator where food residue might build up.
Finally, focus on fabrics that are known to collect allergens. The ALA suggests removing any unnecessary fabrics such as carpeting, curtains, and upholstered furniture, and regularly washing your bedding and clothing in hot water. Use a dehumidifier to keep the fabrics in your home from trapping moisture—this is the pests' preferred environment. Whether roaches or other allergens are to blame for your symptoms, making these changes—and speaking with your doctor about additional interventions—should significantly improve your outcome.