Winter tough on asthma, allergy sufferers

POSTED: 10:46 AM CST Jan 02, 2014    UPDATED: 11:26 AM CST Jan 14, 2014 

(NewsUSA) - As the winter months drag on, cabin fever sets in for many people. However, being cooped up inside is even harder for people suffering from asthma and allergies because more time indoors means greater exposure to indoor allergens. Although mold, pet dander and dust mites are often blamed for sneezing and itchy eyes this time of year, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warns that winter pests such as cockroaches and rodents can also be common asthma and allergy triggers.

"The saliva, urine and fecal droppings from cockroaches and rodents contain allergen proteins known to elicit allergic reactions and asthma attacks," said Dr. Jorge Parada, medical advisor for the NPMA. "During the winter months, cockroaches and rodents seek shelter from the elements inside homes, thereby increasing allergic reactions among those people who suffer from allergies and asthma."

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), cockroach allergens are present in 63 percent of American homes, and mouse allergens in 82 percent. Moreover, the number of homes containing cockroach allergens increases to as many as 78 to 98 percent in urban areas.

"It's important for a person suffering from allergy or asthma symptoms to see his or her doctor. A medical professional will be able to test for a cockroach allergy, as well as other common allergens," Parada advised. "Although there is no cure for asthma, asthma can be controlled through medical treatment and management of environmental triggers. A doctor may recommend the use of antihistamines and decongestant medications to manage symptoms, and may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication and bronchodilators."

The NPMA recommends the following tips to help keep allergy-causing pests out:

* 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 floors often to reduce the accumulation of allergens.

* Keep garbage in a sealed container, and dispose of it regularly.

* Pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms -- especially under appliances and sinks -- as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations.