Which Household Pests Can Aggravate Your Allergies?

Woman sneezing, curled up on a couch

For people with allergies, household pests (bugs, insects and tiny creatures) can make things worse year-round. But which household pests are most likely to aggravate your allergies? Cockroaches, roaches and dust mites, for starters.

That “Achoo!” and “Gesundheit!” triggered by your sneezing may not be solely the result of pollens and dander in the air. Or your seasonal allergy symptoms may be made worse by critters sharing your home or bed.

Let’s take a look at the common household pests most likely to aggravate your allergies, how to find out which creepy crawlies are causing your red eyes, and learn how to send them packing so you can breathe a little easier.

Pests Most Likely to Aggravate Allergies

You already know certain insects, such as bees, wasps and mosquitoes, can set off allergic reactions after biting or stinging. You also know that a bee or wasp sting can be deadly if you are allergic to them.

Pests don’t have to do either of those things, though, to trigger months of congestion, itchiness, and even asthma episodes.

Here are the household pests most likely to aggravate your allergies:

1. Cockroaches

According to the National Pest Management Association, 63 percent of homes — 78 percent of city homes — contain evidence of cockroaches.

Besides making your skin crawl at the very sight (nay, thought) of them, roaches carry diseases, bacteria, parasitic worms, and can spark allergic reactions.

When breathed in, dust mixed with roach saliva, droppings, and body parts, can lead to skin rashes, congestion, and ear and sinus infections. In asthma sufferers especially, this dust can cause bouts of coughing and wheezing.

SEE RELATED: How to get rid of cockroaches for good

2. Dust mites

Thousands of these microscopic pests feed on the dust around your home. This includes your floors, your window sills, little-used furniture and even your bed.

Dust mites’ excrement and shed body parts, like the secretions from roaches, also activate allergies.

Symptoms include congestion, sneezing, coughing, and itchy, watery eyes. Dust mites also can induce asthma attacks.

Dust mites are the predominant cause of allergic reactions in asthmatics, and this pest may even be the reason many children develop the condition in the first place, allergists believe.

3. Rodents

A rodent’s urine contains pheromones that are the main source of allergens from mice and rats. These pheromones help rodents to attract mates, and because male rodents produce more than females, they give off higher levels of allergens.

Rodent dander and saliva also can initiate allergic reactions.

Rodents aren’t just a big-city problem, as they also seek shelter in suburban and rural homes. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 82 percent of U.S. homes contain mouse allergens.

Signs of allergic reactions to rodents include sneezing, congestion, itchy nose and throat, rashes, hives, and asthma attacks.

4. Fruit flies

Often are mistaken for gnats, fruit flies swarm around ripe and rotten fruits and other foods.

Fruit flies do not bite, but as they fly from contaminated surfaces to your skin, the residue on their legs can cause itchy, red bumps and rashes.

A 2016 study showed that exposure to fruit flies can set off respiratory symptoms in some people.

How to Know if You’re Allergic to Household Pests

If you’ve been exhibiting allergic symptoms for more than a season, you may be reacting to an infestation of household pests. To be sure cockroaches, rats, dust mites or other household pests aren’t the root of your allergies — or contributing to them — see an allergist for testing.

A skin prick assessment will check your responses to up to 50 different substances at once. The presence of reactions at specific sites on your skin helps allergists to pinpoint which substances are triggering your symptoms.

Other skin tests include the patch test and the skin injection test.

Once allergists know what’s causing your reaction, they can develop a treatment plan.

For people who are prone to extreme allergic reactions, have certain skin conditions, or take medications that could interfere with skin test results, blood tests are recommended instead.

How to Get Rid of Household Pests and Their Allergens

To get rid of cockroaches, rodents, dust mites, and fruit flies, set out some baits to take down the population that has already breached your lines.

Baits work especially well for roaches and rodents. These pests eat the poison-laced food contained inside and share it with others in their nests, killing them at the source.

Roaches are a stubborn bunch, so you may need to replace baits every three to six months to keep new intruders at bay.

As for dust mites, it’s virtually impossible to totally eradicate them, but you can lessen their numbers. Consistently clean and declutter surfaces, ensure drains and showers are dry, use hypo-allergenic bedding, and wash fabrics, such as sheets, comforters, pillowcases, mattresses, and area rugs on a regular basis.

To ward off any invasion of home pests, your best defense is a good offense. Keeping your home clean of dust and rotting or food will go a long way to barring your door to these pests.

And if you are overrun with house pests and out of do-it-yourself options, call a pest control expert near you.

Getting rid of these pests — and keeping them outside your home — will eliminate the allergens they produce, allowing you to breathe freely without sneezing.

Main Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Andréa Butler

Andréa Butler

Descendant of the Fulani tribe, Gettysburg-obsessed Marine Corps brat, and lover of all things writing and editing, Andréa Butler launched Sesi magazine and has penned articles for sites, such as LivingSocial, Talbot Digital, Xickle, Culturs magazine, and Rachel Ray. Andréa holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an M.A. in magazine journalism from Kent State University.