3 Most Dangerous Household Pests (And What This Means for People With Asthma)

Household pests can be much more than just a nuisance for you and your family.

Some pests can be dangerous to the health of both you and your loved ones, especially for those with asthma.

With around 235 million people worldwide suffering from asthma, it’s important to understand the impact that common household pests can have on the health of those most at risk.

pests affecting people with asthma

We've created this in-depth guide to let you know which three common household pests may put those with allergies at risk.

Continue reading to see if you may be at risk from these pests!

1. Cockroaches

Cockroaches are resilient creatures that can be found living in around 63% of American homes, whether the owners know it or not.

Though they may seem like little more than an unwelcome presence in the kitchen, many people end up developing an allergy to the pests. People with asthma are particularly susceptible to suffering from a cockroach infestation.

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What Causes a Cockroach Infestation?

As hardy as they are, cockroaches are always looking for comfort. They prefer warm, moist environments, which often make our homes the ideal place for them to bunker down. They’re also attracted to loose food, from crumbs left on the floor to garbage waiting to be taken outside.

Cockroaches can get into your home a number of different ways. They may crawl in through small cracks in your walls or foundation, through the plumbing, or through open doors and windows. They can also hitchhike using purses, backpacks, and suitcases. If you’ve recently moved into an older house or a rental unit, there’s a chance that you may have a preexisting roach problem on hand. 

Signs of Bed Bugs in Your Home

Even if you don’t see any cockroaches roaming around your kitchen, it doesn’t mean that your home is free of the pests. Cockroaches tend to stay hidden during the day, only coming out to roam when it’s dark. However, there are a couple of telltale signs that you have a cockroach infestation brewing somewhere within your home:

  • A distinctive, oily, pungent, or musty odor left by live or decaying roaches
  • Tiny brown or black droppings left by live roaches
  • Smear marks from watery excretions
  • Empty, shed cockroach skins and egg cases

If you do see a live cockroach, day or night, you can be sure that you have a fairly large population within your walls. Even if it’s just small roaches that you spot from time to time, it’s important to keep in mind that the larger members of their family must be lurking somewhere. 

It’s a good idea to check your home regularly for signs of cockroach activity. The easiest time to tackle an infestation is when the population is small and relatively new. You should look in hidden corners, under furniture, and around plumbing for any signs of the pests. Don’t forget to check rarely used areas such as the garage or attic. 

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Cockroaches and Your Health

Cockroach allergies are surprisingly common in the general population. Of those with other allergies, nearly one-third are also allergic to cockroaches. For those without any other allergies, around 12% have a reaction to cockroaches alone.

Cockroach allergies can be complicated as there’s no single root cause. Susceptible people can have reactions triggered by the body parts, saliva, or even the waste of cockroaches. Both living and dead insects can cause allergies year-round.

The most common symptoms include:

  • A lasting stuffy or runny nose
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • A persistent dry cough
  • Dry or itchy mucus membranes
  • Itchy skin and rashes

People who have been diagnosed with asthma have a much greater risk of experiencing a reaction to cockroaches, especially with repeated or daily exposure. Their allergic response can also be much more severe and may even require hospitalization.

Symptoms for asthmatic individuals include:

  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Wheezing due to obstructed airways
  • Trouble sleeping due to breathing difficulties
  • Asthma attacks

If left untreated, over time, the symptoms of a cockroach allergy can worsen. In fact, otherwise healthy children have a higher risk of developing asthma if regularly exposed to cockroaches. In order to protect those with underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma, it's best to make sure that your home is clean and free of cockroaches.

To learn about other indoor allergens from pests, watch the video below:

Fighting a Cockroach Infestation

While a bad cockroach infestation might require you to call in the professionals, oftentimes, you can tackle a small cockroach problem yourself. Limiting your family’s exposure to cockroaches is the best way to protect yourself and your family, especially those with asthma. 

Clean the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most common places to find cockroaches in the home. It’s often warm and humid, and there’s no shortage of scraps on which a hungry roach can feast. Even a seemingly clean kitchen may still attract roaches thanks to open food containers, hidden crumbs, half-full garbage cans, and more.

Every time you cook or serve food, you should make sure to give your kitchen a thorough cleaning afterward. You should clean all dirty dishes as soon as possible, wipe down any spills, and sweep up crumbs or excess food that may have fallen on the floor.

It’s also a good idea to seal any food that you leave on the counter or in the pantry, even if it’s considered a non-perishable item. Instead of keeping sugar, flour, and other goods in their original paper packaging, transfer them to an airtight jar or container. You should also regularly take out the trash, and seal the can in between loads. 

If you have pets, make sure that you remember to seal and clean their food as well. A crusty bowl or unattended kibble is just as attractive to a cockroach as the food from our table. You should keep your pet’s food bowl clean, mop up any mess they create when eating, and keep their food bag tightly sealed to deter roaches.

Fix the Plumbing

Cockroaches aren’t only attracted to food but also water. If you have faulty plumbing, it may very well be the root cause of your cockroach infestation. Cockroaches will gather in areas such as under sinks and behind bathtubs and quickly multiply.

You should check your house’s plumbing regularly for any worrying signs. Look for leaks and drippy faucets, and be sure to tighten any loose fixtures that may cause a problem. Even if everything looks like it’s in order, any signs of water damage may indicate a hidden problem within your walls or ceiling. 

Clean Every Room

Cockroaches love to have safe, dark corners in which they can hide. If your home doesn’t have anywhere for them to go, not only will they be less likely to settle in, but it will also be easier to clear out any existing roach nests.

You should try to make sure that your home is clean at all times. Clear away out-of-place items and keep everything neatly tucked away whenever possible. Sweeping and dusting regularly will also help to displace roaches and ensure they have no food source. 

2. Rodents

Household rodents such as mice and rats are best known for carrying diseases in their fur, droppings, and saliva.

An infestation can be dangerous to anyone in your house. However, it can be particularly problematic for anyone with a history of asthma, as rodent pests can trigger severe attacks in susceptible individuals.

What Causes a Rodent Infestation?

Nearly one-third of households are affected by a rodent infestation, with the majority nesting in areas with plenty of access to food, such as the kitchen. You may also find rodents in rarely used areas such as the attic or basement, though they’ve also been known to inhabit high-traffic areas. 

Rodent infestations are most common during the winter months. When it gets cold outside, and food is scarce, mice and rats seek shelter in the warmth of our homes. They can come in through tiny cracks in the walls, with rats able to fit through openings the size of a quarter and most mice able to squeeze through a dime-sized hole.

Rodents are attracted to food, and with their keen sense of smell, they can tell when there’s a free supply lying around Mice and rats are more likely to settle down in houses where food is readily available, especially fresh crumbs and open packages. 

Signs of Rodents in Your Home

Though mice and rats are the most common pest, other rodents may also take refuge in homes and pose a risk to your family’s health. Squirrels, raccoons, and more have been known to occupy attics and basements looking for free food and shelter.

It’s fairly easy to identify a rodent infestation, even if you never see one lurking within your home. Small, pellet-shaped droppings are the most obvious sign. You may also see gnawed edges around your foundation or on bags of food. If the rodents are settling in for good, you may see small scraps of nesting material lying around. 

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Rodents and Your Health

Like cockroaches, many people gain sensitivity to rodents with repeated exposure. If you have a persistent rodent infestation, it may trigger allergic symptoms in you and your family, even for those with no history of allergies. For those who already have allergies, rodents can nearly double the odds of experiencing serious to severe symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Dry or itchy throat

In those who have asthma, the reaction to mice and rats can be even more severe. They may disrupt regular breathing, constrict airways, or cause a full-blown asthma attack. Rodent allergens are often most concentrated in the kitchen, though they can cause problems throughout the home. 

Fighting a Rodent Infestation

If you’re worried about the risk of rodents taking over your home, there are a couple of things that you can do to help prevent and fight infestations. Being proactive about rodent pests can help to protect your family, including any asthmatics, from potentially deadly health complications.

Secure Your Home

Most rats and mice enter through small cracks in your home. One of the best ways to fight an infestation is to prevent it from happening in the first place by properly sealing the exterior of your house. This includes a tight seal around windows, doors, and any incoming pipes and utility lines.

If you have a basement, you should pay close attention to the mortar and weather stripping. In the summer, take a walk around your house looking for any signs of wear or damage and replace stripping that needs it.

Maintain Your Yard

Most rodent infestations start in the backyard. When it starts to get cold out, mice or rats in your garden seek the closest source of warmth and shelter, and it doesn’t take them long to figure out that your house offers both of these things.

Maintaining your yard helps to deter mouse populations from settling there in the spring or summer and becoming a problem later. You should eliminate all hiding spaces close to your house. Keep your grass trimmed, prune foliage regularly, and if you have a woodpile, store it away from the house and off the ground.

Bait Traps

If all else fails, you may be forced to turn to traps for an existing rodent infestation. Fortunately, however, there are far more options to choose from than that standard mousetrap. If you’re looking for a humane option, you can find catch and release traps that allow you to relocate a mouse population in your home to somewhere more suitable. 

With persistent infestations, you may be forced to call in the professionals. It can be difficult to catch all the mice in your home with traps alone, and it only takes two to rebuild the population in a matter of weeks. It’s best to hire a professional in these cases. Rodents can be dangerous, and if you try to handle them yourself, you risk exposing yourself to disease.

3. Bed Bugs

With news of a reemerging bed bug epidemic, many homeowners are worried about inadvertently carrying the little hitchhikers into their homes. Though bed bugs don’t cause a severe reaction in most people, in allergic and asthmatic individuals, their bites can be deadly.

What Causes a Bed Bug Infestation?

If you find a bed bug infestation growing in your home, the chances are that you brought it there. Bed bugs are very adept at spreading from home to home and even between countries. They don’t just latch onto beds, but also clothing, luggage—even the seat covers on airplanes.

The first indication of a bed bug infestation is clusters of bites on the skin; however, bites aren’t necessarily proof that you have an infestation. Bed bugs prefer to hide in tight, dark corners, and so if you want to find evidence of their arrival, you may have to go hunting yourself. 

The surest signs of an infestation are red stains from crushed bugs around your mattress, couch, or other in the nooks and crannies of your home. You may also spot darker marks from droppings, pale yellow eggs, or even live bed bugs wandering around. 

Signs of Bed Bugs in Your Home

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Bed Bugs and Public Health

For most people, bed bugs are simply an expensive and time-consuming nuisance. At worst, some people may develop minor infections at the site of the bite. However, for those with allergies or asthma, bed bugs can be a much more serious issue. 

For asthmatics, bed bug bites may trigger an allergic reaction that makes their symptoms more severe. Both live and dead bed bugs contain proteins that can lead to an allergic response, including reactions such as:

  • Itching, swelling, or a rash at the site of a bite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry or itchy mucus membranes
  • Asthma attacks and anaphylaxis

With bed bugs spreading, it’s important that households with an asthmatic person know the risks associated with an infestation. They should be aware of the warning signs of a worsening reaction and be diligent in checking their home for signs of bed bugs.

Fighting a Bed Bug Infestation

The best time to fight a bed bug infestation is early on in the growth cycle. Otherwise, they can make their way into every crevice of your home and become nearly impossible to eradicate. The best way to ward off an infestation is to check problem areas regularly and take steps to eradicate an infestation as soon as you’re aware of it. Clean any bedding or linens exposed to the bugs using a high heat setting and vacuum the area thoroughly. 

If you already have bed bugs in your home, it isn’t easy to eradicate the population on your own. Instead, you can find professionals. They’re able to fumigate or heat your entire home to a degree where bed bugs and their eggs won’t be able to survive.

While there are many household pests that can pose a danger to people with asthma, being proactive can help to reduce the risk of any serious health complications. Homeowners who live with an asthmatic should be aware of the dangers that pests such as cockroaches, rodents, and bed bugs pose and the best ways to eradicate an infestation. 

Summary

While there are many household pests that can pose a danger to people with asthma, being proactive can help to reduce the risk of any serious health complications.

Homeowners who live with an asthmatic should be aware of the dangers that pests such as cockroaches, rodents, and bed bugs pose and the best ways to eradicate an infestation. 

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