What Are Cockroaches?

Cockroaches are a resourceful pest that live in warm, indoor environments. They prefer areas with sources of water and food and can be found in homes, restaurants, warehouses, and hospitals. They are mostly nocturnal and will run away from bright lights.

How Do Cockroaches Affect Health?

Cockroaches can make asthma worse and cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive. Cockroach allergens can be found in their body parts, saliva, and fecal matter. These tiny particles can become airborne and contaminate the air indoors.

Cockroach allergens act like dust mite allergens and quickly settle. These allergens do not remain airborne for long. Activities like vacuuming may stir up allergens that have settled in dust or fabrics. The most common way to inhale cockroach allergen is to breathe in dust that has collected in pillows, bedding or other dust-trapping fabrics.

Who Is Exposed to Cockroach Allergens?

Cockroaches don't need to be present for there to be cockroach allergen in your home, work or school. One in five homes with no history of cockroach infestation has a significant level of cockroach allergen in dust and fabrics. People with limited resources are more likely to be exposed and allergic to cockroach allergens, whether they live in a city or rural area.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in areas where there is plenty of food and water. At home, kitchens and bathrooms are hotbeds for cockroach activity. However, bedroom allergen concentrations may be more relevant. People spend more time in close contact with their pillow, where they can inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding.

How Can Cockroach Allergens Be Eliminated?

Cockroach allergens spread easily throughout homes, schools and other public places. Simple steps can protect individuals who are particularly sensitive to cockroach allergens.

  • Keep your space clean. Keep food scraps off the floor. Be sure to clean under large kitchen furniture (including the stove and refrigerator) where food might get trapped. Do not leave food and water out.
  • Reduce humidity. Damp indoor spaces foster the growth of cockroaches and other pests. Keep relative humidity between 30-50%.
  • Target the places where cockroach allergens can collect. Common problem spots are beds, carpet, furnishings and clothing. at home, encase mattresses and pillows and wash bedding with hot water once a week. Remove unnecessary fabrics like rugs, curtains and upholstered furniture.
  • Eliminated infestations. You may need a professional if the problem is bad, but try using low toxicity methods - also known as Integrated Pest Management techniques.
  • Remove carpeting. Carpeting should be replaced by hard-surface flooring in homes with allergic individuals. If this is not possible, regular vacuuming of carpets (weekly) may minimize exposure to allergens. However, vacuuming also can stir up dust and allergens in the carpet and temporarily make air quality worse. People with allergies to cockroaches should not vacuum or be in the room while it is being cleaned.

Learn about cockroaches and how to control them in the home in the video below.

Page last updated: June 7, 2024

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