The Sneaky Way Cockroaches Could Be Affecting Your Allergies

The cockroaches that crawl around your house might keep you up at night, but not in the way you think.

14/10/2015 8:31 AM AEDT | Updated 14/10/2015 8:31 AM AEDT

You might have cockroaches to thank for those dark circles under your eyes.

If you toss and turn throughout the night and wake up sneezing, with post nasal drip, itchy, watery eyes or a sore throat, you might be part of the 12 percent of the country who's allergically sensitive to cockroaches, according to Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. Specifically, you might be allergically sensitive to the roaches' feces, body parts and saliva.

As if roaches couldn't get any worse.

"When you’re exposed to a cockroach," Bassett told The Huffington Post, "you're basically exposed to the allergen, and if your body has the right predisposition you will make an immune response, an allergic type reaction."

As soon as you've finished cringing at the thought, there are things you can do in your bedroom to keep roach and other allergies at bay, aside from running to the store to buy all the roach traps.

First, start with your bed, said Robin Wilson, a designer and ambassador for the Asthma Allergy Foundation of America. "One third of our lives are spent sleeping, and that means that the area that you sleep on should be as hypoallergenic as possible to prevent the accumulation of allergen triggers," she told HuffPost.

"Every mattress should have a hypoallergenic mattress pad or cover," she explained, adding that you should use your fitted sheet, then a sheet, then your comforter with hopefully a duvet cover that can be washed.

Washing is very important in reducing allergens in your bedroom, and Wilson recommends thinking in the "rule of threes."

"You should wash your sheets and pillowcase, at minimum, every three weeks," Wilson said. "Then every three months, if you can, wash your zippered pillow cover. And every three years, replace your pillow if you haven’t done any of those."

It'd be nice if you had hardwood floors, too, as they can be cleaned more completely of dust mites and other allergens, as long as you vacuum every inch of your floorspace, including the closet.

"There’s dust in all the corners of your closet," Wilson said. "It whooshes and there’s dust flying around your room."

Also make sure to clean your books, lampshades, blinds and ceiling fans, all of which gather dust -- Wilson said she uses baby wipes for this because "they clean everything. It's amazing."

But how can you tell if you're allergic to cockroaches, rather than other dust mites or mold spores? Allergists such as Bassett offer skin and blood tests that can break down your sensitivities, and then offer allergy shots, drops or immunotherapy options.

As for keeping roaches out of your room, just try to keep them away from what they love: crumbs, leftovers and warm, humid spaces.

Sweet dreams.

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