Cockroaches are insects that live in many locations around the world. These pests adapt easily to a variety of environments. They prefer warm conditions found most often in buildings. They are mainly active at night and will run away from light.
A cockroach allergy is a common trigger of year-round allergy and asthma. If you are allergic to them, they can trigger asthma attacks. Studies show 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.
Cockroaches contain a protein that is an allergen for many people. An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic immune reaction. The body parts, saliva and waste of cockroaches are allergens. Even dead cockroaches can cause allergic reactions.
Common cockroach allergy symptoms include:
If your cockroach allergy triggers your asthma, you may also experience:
To diagnose a cockroach allergy, your doctor may give you a physical exam and discuss your symptoms. If your doctor thinks you have a cockroach allergy, he or she may suggest a skin prick test or a specific IgE blood test. If you have symptoms year round, you could have a cockroach allergy.
Avoid exposure to cockroaches and their droppings. Pests need food, water and shelter to survive. There are changes you can make to your home to reduce the numbers of these unwanted “guests”:
The most important step is to avoid cockroaches as much as possible. Limiting your exposure to cockroaches will reduce your symptoms. However, you may also need medicines to control allergy symptoms.
Certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines may help reduce cockroach allergy symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what medications may be right for you.
Your doctor will also prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines and bronchodilators if you have asthma.
Some people with a cockroach allergy do not get complete relief from the combination of cockroach avoidance actions and medicines. In some cases your allergist may consider immunotherapy (allergy shots). Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment that can help prevent or reduce the severity of allergic reactions. It can change the course of allergic disease by reducing the body’s immune response to allergens.
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Medical Review October 2015.