Just like cats, dogs, or pollen, cockroaches can cause allergies. Enzymes in proteins found in cockroaches are thought to cause allergic reactions in humans.
These proteins are found in the saliva and excrement of cockroaches. They can easily spread through homes, much like dust.
Statistics show cockroach allergies are one of the most common worldwide indoor allergies. They can affect both adults and children, though children are known to be most susceptible. Despite this, people may not realize they have them. Research on cockroach allergies only began in the 1960s.
Fortunately, there are ways to know if you have this allergy. Doctors can diagnose a cockroach allergy and there are treatments you can try at home for relief.
Symptoms of cockroach allergies are similar to those of other common allergies. They’re most similar to symptoms of dust, mites, or seasonal allergies.
People with cockroach allergies may notice their symptoms last beyond the time seasonal allergies would naturally lessen. They may also occur when dust or mites aren’t present. Common symptoms of cockroach allergy include:
- nasal congestion
- nasal or sinus infections
- ear infections
- skin rash
- itchy skin, nose, throat, or eyes
- runny nose or postnasal drip
A cockroach allergy is also known to trigger, exacerbate, or even cause asthma in adults and children. It may affect children worse than adults, especially in urban areas where cockroaches are more common in larger numbers.
Allergies to cockroaches may be one of the top causes of asthma in children in inner cities. Cockroach allergies have also been shown to increase typical asthma symptoms in children more than in those with asthma not caused by cockroach-related exposure.
Asthma symptoms in both children and adults may include:
- whistling or wheezing while breathing
- difficulty breathing
- chest tightness, discomfort, or pain
- difficulty sleeping due to the above symptoms
The most effective treatment for cockroach allergies is prevention by removing the cause. Taking measures to keep cockroaches out of your home is essential for allergy relief. Tips for doing this include:
- keeping a clean and tidy home
- getting rid of dirty or dusty piles of clothes, dishes, papers, or other belongings
- cleaning counters, stoves, and tables of food and crumbs regularly
- sealing up damp areas or leaks where cockroaches can access water
- keeping food containers tightly sealed in the fridge
- tightly sealing all garbage cans
- sweeping floors regularly to remove food crumbs and dust
- using traps, exterminators, or other measures to kill or repel cockroaches
If you see or suspect cockroaches in your home and you’re experiencing allergy or asthma symptoms, the following over-the-counter medications may help you find relief:
If over-the-counter medications don’t help, talk to your doctor about prescription allergy treatments such as:
If you have asthma caused by cockroaches, your typical asthma medications should help during attacks, regardless of the cause.
If your current asthma medications aren’t working and you think cockroaches are a new trigger or are worsening your or your child’s asthma, talk to your doctor immediately.
It can be difficult to know if you’re allergic to cockroaches since symptoms of cockroach allergy are a lot like those of other allergies. You can get an official diagnosis from a doctor.
Your doctor will discuss symptoms and may ask you about your living conditions to see if cockroaches could be a cause for your allergies.
To be certain you’re reacting to cockroaches, your doctor may recommend or order an allergy test. This may be either a blood test to detect cockroach antibodies or a skin patch test to see how your skin reacts to cockroaches.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to an allergist. If you receive a cockroach allergy diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medication or other treatments to help relieve your symptoms.
If symptoms are mild, taking over-the-counter allergy medication and ridding your home of cockroaches should help relieve your symptoms. If these remedies aren’t helping, it may be time to talk to your doctor about trying prescription medications.
Doctors can help you get to the bottom of your cockroach allergies. They can also help you obtain prescriptions and recommend the medications you need.
Remember: Allergy severity varies from person to person. Some experience mild allergy symptoms, while others may have dangerous or even life-threatening allergies.
You should seek emergency medical help immediately if you experience symptoms of allergy attack in the presence of cockroaches. These can include:
- swollen throat
Similarly, if you experience worsening asthma symptoms and attacks and you’re sure they may be caused by cockroaches, keep your doctor in the loop, especially if you notice your asthma medications are working less effectively.
Cockroach allergies are very common. If you have allergies, it may help your symptoms to know if cockroaches are part of the cause. They can also be a more common and severe cause for asthma than some people realize. This is especially true for children.
Whether you have allergies, asthma, or both, removing or preventing cockroaches in your home can help. Knowing cockroaches may be part of the cause of your child’s asthma can help them find treatment that reduces symptoms and attacks, too.
Talk to your doctor to help determine if cockroaches are the cause of you or your child’s allergies or asthma. Taking a blood or allergy test is the most effective way to know for sure.
Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.