This lowly insect is high on the list of troublesome allergens, especially among city dwellers with asthma. According to one study, about 40 percent of children with asthma in New York City are allergic to cockroaches. Within the United States, cockroaches are especially common in Northeastern inner cities. They also thrive in warm, humid climates.
In some urban areas, particularly in high-rise apartments, cockroach allergens are more abundant than dust mite allergens. Cockroach allergens are more likely to provoke asthma in children than either pet dander or dust mite allergens.
People who react to cockroaches are allergic to a protein found in cockroach feces, casts (skins), saliva, and body parts. This protein collects in dust and circulates in the air of a home that has a cockroach infestation.
Getting rid of roaches can be quite a challenge, especially if you live in a warmer climate where they thrive. You could hire a professional exterminator or do some aggressive do-it-yourself work. If you live in an apartment building, eliminating roaches is impossible unless you can persuade your neighbors to cooperate with similar measures. Otherwise, the roaches will just move next door or across the hall until the effects of the pesticides you spray wear off. Here are some suggested strategies:
Clean that kitchen
Sorry, but it's not your company roaches want, it's your food. By cutting off their food source — your food and garbage — you can send them on their way permanently. How?
- Clean your kitchen and wash dirty dishes and utensils immediately after meals. Also clean any crumbs, spills or puddles of water or other liquids.
- Store all food in sealed metal, plastic or glass containers.
- Don't leave pet food out overnight. Once your pet has eaten, cover and store all food.
- Keep garbage cans well sealed and empty your garbage every night.
- Move recyclables — grocery bags, cardboard boxes, newspapers and empty bottles — outside your home. Roaches like to use them for hiding spots.
- Scrub grease from stove tops, ovens, counters and walls.
- If you treat your home with pesticides, you also need to clean floors thoroughly to remove dead roaches and their debris.
Try the power of powder
Sprinkling boric acid powder in infested areas is another effective treatment, and doesn't have the odor (or irritating effect for asthmatics) of commercial pesticides. Sprinkle the powder under stoves and refrigerators, behind kitchen counters, and in other places where roaches hide. Do not put boric acid where pets or children can come in contact with it.
Bait `em to eradicate `em
A roach trap containing hydramethylnon can keep roaches at bay for up to three months. These traps, available where pesticides and pest-control devices are sold, also should be used where roaches hide.
Let us spray
If you have not been able to eliminate cockroaches by using poisonous bait, traps, or boric acid, you may need to use chemical pesticides. Pesticides can aggravate a child’s asthma, so any chemical pesticide treatment should occur while your family is out of the home and your home should be adequately ventilated following the treatment. Chemical pesticide sprays or one of the pesticide "bombs" designed to rid bigger areas of roaches may be used. Chemical treatments of kitchen cabinets and drawers should be repeated according to instructions on the can or as indicated by your doctor. Be sure to first remove dishes and eating utensils. Also try to spray behind appliances (stoves, dishwashers and washing machines) and in areas that are particularly moist, such as bathrooms and basements.
Play Mr. Fix-it
Besides pesticides, a little do-it-yourself work can be your prescription for cockroach allergies. Repair cracks and holes in walls, floors and window and door screens to prevent roaches from entering your home. Apply caulk around pipes in walls and floors, especially those leading outdoors, and repair leaky faucets, because cockroaches are attracted to moist areas.