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Last year I moved to a retirement center. Within the first month, I got a stuffy nose that didn’t go away and a rash. Then I noticed a few cockroaches in my apartment. The building manager had my apartment sprayed with insecticide, but within a few months the cockroaches returned. I told my allergist about my symptoms and she diagnosed a cockroach allergy. I started to take over the-counter medicines and told the building manager about the problem. He told the residents how to prevent and get rid of cockroaches, like keeping food in containers with tight lids, and he had the building sprayed. – Victor, age 82


How do cockroaches cause allergy symptoms?

Cockroach allergens (substances that cause allergy symptoms) come from different parts of the cockroach. These allergens also can cause asthma. An allergy occurs when you react to things like cockroaches and dust mites that don’t affect most people. If you are allergic to cockroaches and you come in contact with them, you may have symptoms. This is called an allergic reaction.

Where do cockroaches usually live?

Cockroaches usually live where there is something they like to eat, in moist areas, and in warm hiding places.

Things they like to eat. Food and paints, wallpaper pastes, newspapers, and book binding material.

Moist areas. Any moist area including standing water and “sweating pipes.”

Warm hiding places. Under the sink and in wall and floor cracks, stacks of newspaper or books, and grocery bags.

Did you know…If you see one cockroach in your home, there are probably at least 800 hiding nearby?

What are the symptoms of a cockroach allergy?

The symptoms include a stuffy nose that won’t go away and skin rash, and year-around asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing (a whistling sound when a person breathes), a feeling of tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.


How is cockroach allergy diagnosed?

Your allergist will review your medical history, ask questions about your symptoms and possible

allergens. He or she may do skin testing and/or test your blood. With skin testing, a small amount of a possible allergen is pricked or scratched into the skin. If you’re sensitive to an allergen, a small red lump appears on the skin where that substance was placed.

Management and Treatment

How is cockroach allergy treated?

  • Take steps to prevent or get rid of cockroaches.
  • Take medicine to relieve your symptoms. Your allergist may prescribe medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants, nose (nasal) sprays, or eye drops for allergy symptoms and asthma medicine for asthma symptoms.
  • Get allergy shots, if the allergist suggests you get them. Some people need them when they can’t avoid an allergen. The shots contain a tiny but increasing amount of the allergen you’re sensitive to. Over time, your body becomes used to the allergen and no longer reacts to it.

How can I prevent or get rid of cockroaches in my home?

  • Keep food and garbage in containers with tight lids. Never leave food out in the kitchen or anywhere else.
  • Clean up all food crumbs and spilled drinks right away.
  • Store food in tight containers or storage jars.
  • Wash dirty dishes right away.
  • Don’t leave out pet food, except when your pet is eating.
  • Keep counters, sinks, stove, tables, and floors clean and clear of clutter.
  • Vacuum or sweep the kitchen floor after meals. Mop the floor at least once a week.
  • Fix leaky faucets, drain pipes, and other moisture problems.
  • Get rid of piles of things, like cardboard boxes and newspapers, where cockroaches may hide.
  • Plug up small spaces around the house, such as cracks between the wall and floor, where cockroaches can enter.
  • Use poison baits, boric acid, or traps.

Should I use pesticide sprays to get rid of cockroaches?

Try using poison baits, boric acid, or traps before you use pesticide sprays. If you must use sprays:

  • Spray only where you’ve seen cockroaches.
  • Follow the instructions on the spray label.
  • Don’t spray in areas where you prepare or store food or where children play, crawl, or sleep.
  • Open windows and doors to get fresh air during and after spraying.
  • Keep yourself and everyone else away from the areas being sprayed. The spray can make asthma and allergies worse.
  • Be aware that cockroaches move from place to place to avoid treated areas. When the pesticide spray wears off, they’ll probably come back. So it’s important to follow the steps in “How can I prevent or get rid of cockroaches in my home?” below.

Who should treat my cockroach allergy?

Your allergist can treat your allergies. Allergists are experts in treating allergies.

Does health insurance cover treatment for cockroach allergy?

Most health insurance plans cover allergy treatment.

Ask your insurance carrier:

  • Do I need a referral from my doctor to see an allergy expert?
  • Does my insurance cover patient education or special services for my allergies?
  • Does my insurance cover a pre-existing problem? This usually means any health problem that you had before you joined your current health plan.
  • What allergy testing and medicines does my plan cover?

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