In recognition of National Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, celebrated each May, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is reminding families that cockroach allergens can trigger allergies and asthma attacks. The saliva, droppings and decomposing bodies of cockroaches contain allergen proteins known to trigger allergies and increase the severity of asthma symptoms, especially in children.

"When most people think of allergy and asthma triggers, they probably do not think of cockroaches," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. "But homes, schools and other buildings that have cockroach infestations can pose a serious health threat to those that suffer from allergies and asthma. Cockroach allergens tend to accumulate in areas that are not easily seen, like under appliances and sinks, so keeping these areas clean is key."

In addition to triggering allergies and asthma, cockroaches are known to spread 33 different kinds of bacteria, six parasitic worms and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens. As cockroaches crawl through decaying matter or sewage, they turn into disease-carrying pests by picking up germs on the spines of their legs and bodies. These germs can then be transferred to humans on hard surfaces and through food contamination.

The NPMA recommends these tips to help prevent cockroach infestations:

- Seal cracks around the outside of the home to prevent pest entryways.
- Vacuum frequently and dispose of garbage regularly.
- Keep counters and floors clean and free of crumbs that attract pests. Pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms - especially under appliances and sinks - as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations due to the presence of food products and moisture in plumbing fixtures.
- If you suspect you have an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to identify the species and recommend a course of treatment.

To learn more about cockroaches and the health threats they pose, or to find a licensed pest professional, visit

National Pest Management Association