Cockroach Allergy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis
What is Cockroach Allergy?
Cockroaches are pests which can be found in almost every household. They thrive particularly in the kitchen and the bathrooms or storerooms. Cockroaches have the ability to adapt to any environment but tend to prefer warmer temperatures and hence can be found aplenty in the summer season. Cockroaches tend to stay away from light and hence they can be found active particularly at nighttime. Cockroaches have certain proteins to which if an individual comes in contact to causes severe allergic reaction meaning that the protein acts as an allergen to many individuals.
Medically an allergen is any substance which causes an immune reaction in the body. Hence an exposure to the body parts of a Cockroaches, saliva and waste products of Cockroaches tend to trigger an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction is what we term as Cockroach Allergy. This reaction becomes much more severe if an individual has a known diagnosis of asthma. Even dead cockroaches can have the potential to cause a Cockroach Allergy.
What Causes Cockroach Allergy?
If an individual has Cockroach Allergy and comes in contact with a cockroach or inhales any waste product of the cockroach like saliva then the individual's already sensitive immune system triggers off a response to this allergen to fight off this foreign body. An individual may not get any allergy symptoms if he or she is exposed to this allergen for the first time but repeated exposure to cockroaches and their wastes tend to trigger off an immune response from the body
In this process, the white blood cells of the body develop IgE antibodies to fight off the allergen. Once the antibodies are formed, whenever there is an exposure to cockroach allergen the body reacts by attacking the allergen. This triggers the release of a chemical called as histamines which is what causes the symptoms of what we call as Cockroach Allergy like runny nose, sneezing, and watery and itchy eyes.
What are the Symptoms of Cockroach Allergy?
Some of the symptoms of Cockroach Allergy are:
- Persistent sneezing
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Persistent watery eyes
- Nose congestion
- Throat itching
- Postnasal drip
- Coughing spells
- Skin rash
- Skin itching.
If an individual has asthma and is exposed to cockroaches and has Cockroach Allergy then he or she may experience additional symptoms of the following:
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Problems with sleep due to breathing problems, coughing and wheezing.
How is Cockroach Allergy Diagnosed?
Skin Prick Test: In this test, cockroach allergens are used and applied to the skin in the arm or the back with tiny punctures made. If an individual has Cockroach Allergy, he or she will develop a bump or a hive at the site where the cockroach allergen was applied. This will confirm the diagnosis of Cockroach Allergy.
IgE Test: This test is perhaps a bit less accurate than a Skin Prick Test but nevertheless can be used to confirm the diagnosis of Cockroach Allergy. In this procedure some blood is taken from the body and is sent to the laboratory. A cockroach allergen like saliva is added to the blood. If the blood contains IgE sensitive to cockroach allergens then it will bind the cockroach allergen. An anti-IgE antibody is then added to the mixture to check the level of IgE. The more the level of IgE in the blood the more is the severity of Cockroach Allergy.
What is the Treatment for Cockroach Allergy?
There is actually no definite treatment to treat allergies but symptoms definitely can be controlled and perhaps the best way to treat Cockroach Allergy is to avoid exposure to this pest. To ease the symptoms of Cockroach Allergy, the individual may be prescribed certain medications like antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids to calm down the symptoms of Cockroach Allergy. Antihistamines are easily available in the form of tablets and sprays. They help in relieving the symptoms of sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. They are also helpful in calming down runny nose and nasal congestion.
Nasal corticosteroid is a type of a nose spray. The mechanism of function of this medication is that they reduce the swelling in the neck caused by Cockroach Allergy and block any allergic reactions due to it.
Cromolyn Sodium is yet another nasal spray that is quite helpful in relieving symptoms of Cockroach Allergy. It blocks the release of chemicals causing allergic reactions. This spray can be taken up to four times a day.
Nasal Decongestants are also quite useful in reliving symptoms of Cockroach Allergy. These are available in the form of pills, liquids, sprays and drops. These medications shrink the lining of the nasal passages and help relieve the nasal stuffiness. These medications should be used for a short period of time and the individual should consult with the physician before starting to use such decongestants.
For people who have asthma, the physician will also recommend use of antiinflammatory medicines and bronchodilators along with allergy medications to avoid a flare up of asthma along with symptoms of Cockroach Allergy.
In case if the above medications do not give adequate relief of symptoms of Cockroach Allergy then another option is to consider allergy shots in combination with the above mentioned medications. This form of treatment is given long term and helps in preventing allergic reactions or reducing the severity of a Cockroach Allergy.
Ways to Avoid Cockroach Exposure to Prevent Cockroach Allergy?
As stated above, the best way to treat Cockroach Allergy is to avoid exposure to cockroaches. For this the following steps may be taken so that here is no exposure to cockroaches at all. The steps that can be taken to prevent cockroach exposure are:
- Cover trash cans tightly and do not leave them open and they can become a breeding ground for cockroaches.
- Always store food in containers which are airtight, as open food acts as an invitation for cockroaches
- After eating, make sure to clean the dishes and not leave them dirty on the sink or on the counter as this also is something in which cockroaches thrive upon.
- Clean the kitchen counter thoroughly making sure that no food particle is left behind after dinner at night to avoid cockroaches from coming in
- Try not to leave leaky pipes under sinks as they are the perfect breeding ground for cockroaches
- Seal all the cracks in the floors or walks so that cockroaches cannot enter the home and put an individual at risk for Cockroach Allergy.