Cockroaches in homes are a health hazard to many children and families because of the risks cockroach antigens pose to asthma sufferers. |
When you think of cockroaches, you've got to admit you think filth and squalor. But are these traditional beliefs that cockroaches are dirty, disease-spreading bugs entirely accurate?
Dr Noel Tait is an honorary professor in invertebrae zoology at Macquarie University. He says the problem with cockroaches are those nasty little deposits they leave behind. "The allergens are cockroach allergens themselves. They are in the faeces because they are chemicals from the bodies of the cockroaches. And people who are susceptible to allergic situations can become hyper sensitised to them," says Dr Tait.
Therefore, if you don't want cockroaches taking up residence at your house — clean up. Cockroaches in homes are only as dirty as the environment they are living in. If you have a filthy house, they will spread that filth around your kitchen, but if your kitchen is clean and hygienic, you won't be providing them with a food source and they won't bother so much. But if the odd cockroach does show up, at least you know they're not that bad. They're actually quite hygienic.
Traditionally, cockroaches were controlled because they are offensive, leave behind an awful smell, and cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. However, research shows that cockroach debris (old shells, saliva, body parts, and droppings) triggers asthma attacks in people who are sensitized to cockroach antigen (proteins found in the debris). In homes where several allergens are present, including dust mites, mold, furry pets, tobacco smoke, and certain chemicals, children may experience severe and frequent asthma attacks from high airborne concentrations of these allergens.
Any home with food or moisture can have cockroaches. Kitchens and bathrooms typically have the highest number of cockroaches due to the presence of food products and moisture from plumbing fixtures. Apartment buildings often have the worst infestations. The goal is to keep cockroaches out of the home and to eliminate existing pests. Reaching this goal is not always easy, especially in multi-unit housing that is already infested. For most apartment buildings, the landlord must take a building-wide approach to controlling these pests. Moreover, a coordinated effort by the landlord and all tenants is required to eliminate cockroaches.
Integrated pest management techniques that control cockroaches through moisture control and other interventions can also help to minimize exposure to other environmental hazards, including lead and mold. Moisture from leaky roofs, plumbing fixtures, spills, damp areas in the kitchen and bathroom, and other sources should be minimized, along with access to food, accumulation of trash, and holes and cracks in the walls. Safe and effective pest management techniques must be utilized, as some chemicals used to treat pests are toxic, may exacerbate asthma symptoms, and are not successful at ridding homes of cockroaches.
Cockroaches do not bite and have no sting, but can carry bacteria that can cause some pretty horrible illnesses. They pose a risk to health as a matter of hygiene, but are otherwise not actually dangerous. Cockroach infestations pose two dangers. The first is the danger of spreading disease and causing food poisoning when they defecate on our food. The second is the danger of causing allergy attacks in sensitive people. Cockroach allergies are common.
Because children spend more time indoors, allergens found in homes and other buildings pose a significant health risk for asthma sufferers. With asthma rates growing at a startling rate, the hazard posed by the presence of any cockroaches must be addressed.
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