In recognition of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, celebrated in May, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is reminding people that cockroaches can trigger bug allergy and asthma attacks, along with other pertinent diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 25.7 million people, including almost 7.1 million children, have asthma. Many of these cases are caused by one of the most dangerous allergens – cockroaches – that may be crawling inside your home.

“Cockroach droppings, saliva, shed skin and other body parts contain potent allergen proteins known to cause allergic reactions and exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children,” said Dr. Jorge Parada, medical spokesperson for the NPMA. “Unfortunately, people who are exposed to these allergens during childhood are at an increased risk for bronchial hyperresponsiveness and asthma problems later in life.”

In addition to being a culprit behind running noses, itchy eyes and wheezing, cockroaches spread nearly 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella. They pick up germs on the spines of their legs as they crawl through decaying matter, which may be transferred to humans on hard surfaces and through food contamination.

Following tips to prevent cockroach infestations:

Seal cracks and holes around the outside of the home including utility pipes.
Properly ventilate basements and crawl spaces to prevent moisture buildup.
Keep counters free of crumbs and vacuum the floors often to reduce the accumulation of cockroach allergens.
Keep garbage in a sealed container and dispose of it regularly to avoid attracting pests.
Pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms – especially under appliances and sinks – as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations.
If you find signs of a cockroach infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the pest problem.