Cockroaches are quite possibly the most disliked insect on the planet. They're considered dirty because they like to dine on rotten food; they carry bacteria from this on their legs and contaminate everything they walk across. For this reason, they're one of the top pest control problems in the U.S.
You may dislike cockroaches, but did you ever consider that you might also be allergic to them?
Responsible for Asthma Attacks
A study done in the late '90s proved that cockroaches are the responsible party for many allergies and asthma issues in kids, especially those who live in larger cities and whose families are lower income. Researchers used skin tests to determine allergies in children -- 37 percent of kids in the study had cockroach allergies, compared to 35 percent who were allergic to dust mites and 23 percent who were allergic to cats. They also measured the amount of allergens for these three things in the children's living areas.
Not surprisingly, the kids who were allergic and had the highest levels of cockroach allergens in their homes were more likely to develop asthma and have to be hospitalized for it.
Contaminating Your Food
Then there's food contamination. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a certain level of cockroach parts in food is okay. Honestly, that's not a huge problem with most food, as the preparation process removes any bacteria so you won't get sick.
But that's not true if you have cockroach allergies. All the processing in the world won't remove the allergens, and if you're particularly sensitive, you may react to foods that contain cockroach parts.
A chocolate bar, for example, contains an average of 8 insect parts. As long as there are fewer than 60 pieces of bug in your bar, you're fine, according to the FDA.
What You Can Do
The first thing you can do if you suffer from allergies is obvious: Get rid of the cockroaches in your home. That can minimize the effects of allergies that lead to asthma.
But cockroach removal is best suited for a pest control expert (such as one from Emory Brantley & Sons Termite and Pest Control) -- the chemicals needed to eradicate roaches are for professional use only. In addition to spraying for cockroaches, an exterminator can give you traps and baits that will eliminate any remaining bugs.
You can take other steps to eliminate cockroaches, too, including:
- Look for any seal cracks, especially in the kitchen and pantry areas.
- Make sure that you don't have a compost pile close to the house that is not covered tightly.
- Never leave food, such as that on dirty dishes, around your kitchen or home.
It may be difficult or impossible, or take time, to get rid of all roaches, and then you'll still face the issue of food contamination and roaches in other homes and buildings you go into. Visit an allergist to get medication that can help your symptoms, and discuss whether a more aggressive treatment like allergy shots could help you manage.