Allergies: Controlling Cockroaches


Cockroaches leave behind particles from their feces, eggs, and shells that can cause an allergic reaction. These particles, called antigens, can travel through the air, and you can breathe them into your lungs. They can cause coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and trouble breathing. You may even have an allergic reaction when you get cockroach antigens on your skin.

Just getting rid of the cockroaches isn't enough, because their antigens stay behind. These particles can cause allergic reactions for years after cockroaches are gone.

Here are some steps you can take.

  • Get rid of cockroach antigens.
    • Vacuum and use household cleaners to remove cockroach antigens. You must carefully clean every nook and corner. Cockroaches live in groups where they can get food and water. You will find most antigens in these areas.
  • Kill (exterminate) cockroaches.
    • You can kill cockroaches with baits or traps or by spraying pesticides.
    • Use sticky traps that catch cockroaches and can be thrown away.
  • Be careful when using pesticides.
    • If you have breathing problems, fumes from pesticides can trigger symptoms. Try using baits or traps before you decide to spray. If you need to spray, limit the spray to the infested area. Avoid spraying in food preparation or storage areas.
    • If you use cockroach bait or poisons, get the kind that come in ready-to-use childproof containers.

    It may be best to use a professional pest control company.

    Chemicals can irritate the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. So chemicals aren't the first choice for controlling cockroaches in the home. Follow all of the directions that come with the chemical. If you use a chemical spray, be sure you and others stay away from the treated areas. And open the windows and doors during use and until all odor is gone.

    If you have breathing problems, you need to stay out of the house until the odor of the chemical is gone.

  • Keep your home cockroach-free.
    • Clean often. Pay special attention to carpets, upholstery, and bedding.
    • Keep your house dry. Increase ventilation to get rid of moisture.
    • Keep all food in sealed containers.
    • Never leave food out, especially at night. This includes pet food.
    • Clean up food spills right away.
    • Wash your dishes as soon as you're done eating.
    • As soon as you finish preparing food, clean your kitchen.
    • Clean all appliances well. Clean all spots that can collect moisture or food, such as the drip pan under the refrigerator, the crumb tray in your toaster, the area under your stove, and the area under stove burners.
    • Make sure all of your trash cans have lids that close tightly. Don't leave garbage in open containers.
    • Throw away or recycle mail, newspapers, and boxes. Cockroaches can hide in these items.
    • Seal openings that cockroaches can use to enter your house. Pay special attention to windows, cracks in the wall, and gaps in the floor.


Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.