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Household Pests a Leading Trigger for Childhood Asthma and Allergies

Asthma and allergies are growing increasingly common among children, with around 9% of kids in the US now suffering from asthma(1) and skin allergies and respiratory allergies now affecting around 12% and 17% respectively(2). These conditions often occur together, with children who have allergies more likely to have asthma. Although there are numerous triggers for atopic conditions, an allergy to household pests or their waste products is one possible cause, with dust mites, rodents and cockroach droppings a common trigger(3). In fact, according to a recent survey of allergists, keeping your home free from pests is an essential step to prevent the symptoms of asthma and allergies(4).

Allergists Back Link to Household Pests

The research, which was funded by the National Pest Management Association, and carried out by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, surveyed close to 500 allergists attending the annual conference of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology in San Diego in March. Some of the key findings of the study were:


  • 97% of allergists consider a pest-free home is vital to avoid the symptoms associated with asthma and allergies
  • Besides dust mites, 76% of allergists consider cockroaches the most problematic home pests for allergies and asthma, with 57% ranking rodents as the next problematic and 63% ranking biting insects in third place
  • 95% of allergists recommend their patients minimize pest allergen exposure at home
  • 90% of allergists advise patients with a home pest problem to use the services of a pest management company, with this being the number one advice for patients sensitive to cockroach allergens

The results of this survey are encouraging, as while consulting with a physician specializing in atopic conditions is essential to receive an accurate diagnosis and medical advice on how to manage asthma and allergies, taking action to eliminate the trigger is crucial, which families can achieve with the help of pest managementprofessionals.

Pest Allergens in Your Home

While no one likes to think that they have an infestation of pests at home, particularly when this means your family’s health is potentially at risk, allergic pests are more common than many people realize. For instance, previous research into the incidence of household allergens has shown that close to 85% of homes have evidence of dust mites in their beds and in around half of homes levels are sufficient to trigger a sensitivity(5). While you might be able to accept the thought of dust mites in your property, it is another matter when it comes to cockroaches, but 63% of homes in America contain evidence of these invasive insects, with 11% of living rooms and 13% of kitchens containing high enough concentrations to provoke an allergic reaction(6).


No one’s home is immune from invasion by common household pests, but pests do appear more common in low-income housing in urban areas. Indeed, a study of 20 areas of low-income housing around the Boston area found that over half the homes surveyed had at least three serious environmental exposure problems, including exposure to pests(7). The poor upkeep of public housing may partly help to explain the link with a higher incidence of pests, with damage to walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows all more common and providing easy access to the property for the likes of rodents and cockroaches(8). This may also help to account for why asthma and certain allergies are more common among children living below the poverty level(9)

The dander, fur, urine, droppings and body parts from pests can all potentially trigger an allergic reaction or an asthma attack. This is because these items all contain proteins that the body is unfamiliar with, so if exposed to these, your immune system recognizes the foreign substance and mounts an attack, which leads to inflammation. The results of this can include skin irritation, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are not only unpleasant, but they may require hospital care and absence from school.

As it is often difficult to deal with a pest infestation safely and effectively yourself, calling in the services of an experienced pest management professional like Marty is advisable so that you can eliminate the unwelcome visitors from your home. However, once your home is pest-free, it is important to take steps to keep it that way. Some easy measures you can take around your home to keep pest allergens at bay include(10):

  • Using sticky traps to identify pests early in areas most commonly targeted such as your basement, bathroom and kitchen
  • Sealing cracks, crevices and small holes around your property, and checking your window screens are in good condition
  • Reduce clutter, as this is an ideal hiding place for pests
  • Storing food away, sweeping up crumbs and not leaving pet food down overnight
  • Regularly emptying your trash and making sure the can has a well-fitting lid
  • Washing bedding at a high temperature weekly to destroy dust mites and using zipped protectors for your mattress and pillows
  • Clearing out cobwebs, but being wary that a significant increase in number could be the warning signs of a spider infestation.


1. “Asthma facts and figures,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, accessed November 3 2014

2. “Trends in allergic conditions among children,” CDC, accessed November 3 2014

3. “Asthma triggers and management,” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, accessed November 3 2014

4. “New survey shows allergists agree a pest-free home is important in preventing asthma and allergy symptoms,” National Pest Management Association, accessed November 3 2014

5. Samuel Arbes et al, “House dust mite allergen in US beds,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 111(2003):408, accessed November 3 2014

6. Richard Cohn et al, “National prevalence and exposure risk for cockroach allergen in US households,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(2006):522, accessed November 3 2014

7. Gary Adamkiewicz et al, “Environmental conditions in low-income urban housing: clusterings and association with self-reported health,” American Journal of Public Health, 104(2014):1650, accessed November 3 2014

8. Changlu Wang et al, “Survey of pest infestation, asthma and allergy in low-income housing,” Journal of Community Health, 33(2008):31, accessed November 3 2014

9. “Asthma facts,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed November 3 2014

10. “Asthma, pests and pesticides,” Pennsylvania IPM Program at Penn State, accessed November 3 2014

11. “Marty Overline, Pest Exterminator“, Martin Overline, bed bug and pest removal expert, interviewed November 3 2014

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