News Stories

Asthma Caused by Pesky Bugs

Newswise - For years, doctors have wondered why children who live in cities have much more asthma than those raised in thecountryside, and also why black children are more severelyaffected than whites. Is it because more Afro-Americans live in cities, or is it due to racial genetics? Now a nationwidestudy of asthmatic children shows that cockroaches are themain cause of their asthma. Roaches are present in even veryclean homes, inside the walls and in warm places, such asbehind light switches. You can use poison to kill theroaches you see, but just like mice and rats, there are manymore lurking in unseen places.

Childhood asthma used to be blamed mainly on pets or on dustmites?those tiny, microscopic bugs that feed on skin flakes.They also lurk everywhere and are impossible to avoid. But anew study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showsthat cockroaches cause most of the problem.

"These data confirm that cockroach allergen is the primarycontributor to childhood asthma in inner-city homeenvironments,? says Dr. Kenneth Olden. But all is not lost. General cleaning practices, proven exterminationtechniques and consistent maintenance methods can bringthese allergen levels under control."

Cockroach allergens come from their saliva, fecal material,secretions, cast-off skins, and dead bodies. People canreduce their exposure to cockroach allergen by eating onlyin the kitchen and dining room, putting non-refrigerateditems in plastic containers or sealed bags, and taking outthe garbage on a daily basis. Other measures includerepairing leaky faucets, frequent vacuuming of carpetedareas and damp-mopping of hard floors, and regular cleaningof counter tops and other surfaces.

Pediatrician Rebecca Gruchalla, who conducted the study,says, "We found that a majority of homes in Chicago, NewYork City and the Bronx had cockroach allergen levels highenough to trigger asthma symptoms, while a majority of homesin Dallas and Seattle had dust mite allergen levels abovethe asthma symptom threshold. We also discovered that thelevels of both of these allergens were influenced by housingtype. Cockroach allergen levels were highest in high-riseapartments, while dust mite concentrations were greatest indetached homes."

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