The Risk of Roaches: How to Keep Your Home Allergen Free

FAIRFAX, Va. (March 3, 2011)For 23 million Americans -- including 7 million children -- spring showers bring more than rejuvenation. They bring sniffles, sneezes and wheezing that could only mean allergy season is around the corner. But before you run for cover indoors this spring, take heed: One of the most dangerous allergens may be crawling inside your home.

Cockroaches spread nearly 33 different kinds of bacteria, six types of parasitic worms and seven kinds of human pathogens. And although this gross factor alone is huge, the biggest health threat comes from the skin and fecal droppings the critters leave behind.

"Cockroach allergens accumulate as a result of droppings and shed skins, which can trigger asthma attacks in adults and children," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

The increased risk of an asthma attack is most pronounced in children. Recent medical studies have targeted cockroach allergens as the trigger for numerous allergic reactions and as the main cause of missed school days. 

If you do see a cockroach scuttling across your floor, Henriksen advises to watch for a larger problem. "Unfortunately, if you see one cockroach, there are sure to be many more. Proper control and removal is needed to prevent the build-up of cockroach allergens and the spread of bacteria."

Cockroaches are most active when temperatures reach 70 degrees or above and thrive in warm, dark and moist places. NPMA offers these helpful tips for keeping cockroaches out of your home this spring:

  • Vacuum. Early and often is best for reducing harmful cockroach allergens.
  • Keep a spotless kitchen. To prevent infestations, keep all your food and garbage in sealed containers and dispose of regularly. Clean behind and under appliances regularly, as these are favorite hiding spots for cockroaches.
  • Ventilate. Air out basements and crawl spaces to prevent moisture.
  • Seal the entrances. Close off cracks and holes around utility pipes that provide easy access to your home.
  • Act quickly. If you find evidence of an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the problem. To find one in your area, visit

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.