Asthma from Cockroach Allergy?

Last Editorial Review: 8/9/2006

There is strong evidence in the scientific literature that exposure to cockroach allergens can cause asthma in susceptible children and adults. Cockroach allergens are proteins found in cockroach droppings. One in five children in the U.S. is allergic to cockroach allergens, as indicated by a positive skin prick test. Exposure to cockroach allergens is believed to be a major risk factor for asthma among children in inner-city homes where cockroaches are common.

One study, the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study, found that asthmatic children with both a positive skin prick test to cockroach allergen and a high exposure to cockroach allergen in the bedroom were more likely to have wheezing, missed school days, nights without sleep, and unscheduled medical visits and hospitalizations for asthma. However, the risk of asthma from cockroach allergen exposure and allergy is not limited to children. A study of elderly asthmatics in New York City found that cockroach allergy was associated with more severe asthma.

While scientific data strongly suggest that cockroach allergy can cause asthma, it is important to point out that not everyone who is allergic to cockroach allergens has asthma and not everyone who has asthma is allergic to cockroach allergens. The same is true for allergies to other indoor allergens as well. Researchers believe that asthma is the result of hereditary as well as environmental factors. It is known that children with asthma are more likely to have at least one parent with asthma. Researchers are working to unravel the complex relationship between heredity, exposure to indoor allergens, and the development of asthma.

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SOURCE: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (

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