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Winter is officially on its way! For some, that means relief from seasonal allergy symptoms, but for those sensitive to indoor allergens, it means being trapped inside with the things that trigger your symptoms. In this edition of the Breathe Freely blog, we’re going to talk about a little known but very common allergy that we’ll be facing with increased frequency in the coming months.

With the daylight hours shrinking and the first cold snap of the year on our tail, Houstonians are preparing to hunker down for our city’s trademark cold and soggy winter. That means more time spent in the presence of everyone’s least favorite houseguest: Cockroaches.

Not only are cockroaches a pest, they’re also a major contributor to winter allergy symptoms. Studies have shown that cockroaches are a common source of indoor allergens worldwide. Not only that, but health experts have found a link between cockroach allergies and asthma.

One study found that 40-60% of individuals with asthma in urban environments possess IgE antibodies for cockroaches. IgE antibodies trigger over responses by the immune system toward allergens; they’re basically what causes allergies. Prolonged exposure to allergens, such as cockroaches has been shown to cause asthma in some children. So if you have asthma, cockroaches are a potential trigger, and if you don’t have asthma but are allergic to roaches, you are at increased risk of developing the condition, especially if you’re a child.

If you suffer from year-round allergy symptoms, it’s possible that a cockroach allergy may be to blame. There are two cockroach varieties found in the Houston area: the German Cockroach and the American Cockroach. You can be allergic to either species or both.

At the Pasha Snoring and Sinus Center, we rely on allergy tests to determine sensitivity to allergens. If you are found to be allergic to cockroaches, there are various steps you can take to relieve your symptoms. The first step is avoidance. However, cockroaches aren’t going anywhere, and even when they die, their carcus becomes a component of dust. In fact, many people who have “dust allergies” actually have a cockroach allergy.

So in the case of cockroach allergies, avoidance involves covering furniture with dust protectors. It doesn’t have to be the crinkly vinyl covers your grandparent used to use.  These days you can find cloth covers with tiny pores too small for dust to travel through.

Antihistamines may be considered, but they have side effects like dryness and do not have any long term benefits. Another step you can take is purchasing HEPA filters to help purify the air around your house. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters can remove 99.97% of airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns.

It also wouldn’t hurt to step up your pest control game. That doesn’t mean spraying harmful pesticides over every inch of your house. We’re talking more meaningful things like keeping food in sealed containers, reducing clutter around the house, and generally stepping up your housekeeping game.

Avoidance is not always effective in cockroach allergies, especially in urban environments where high human population density supports much higher bug populations. If avoidance doesn’t work for you, the remaining option is immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is, by far, the gold standard approach for a long-term solution. The patient is exposed to allergy triggers (e.g., pollen, dust, mold) without triggering symptoms by “building up” your immunity. The Pasha Snoring and Sinus Center is unique in that we offer different methods of immunotherapy, such as with shots or by oral drops. Both modalities allow you to administer your own immunotherapy at home.

We’ve been administrating home immunotherapy safely since 2001. Our program is designed to educate you at your own pace, so you have the confidence to perform your own immunotherapy correctly. We will instruct you on safety and on handling any side effects or potential emergencies. Once trained, you would only have to return to the office every 2–3 months for a higher concentration of serum rather than visit our office once or even twice a week like other clinics.

If you’re suffering from year-round allergy symptoms, considering paying a visit to the Pasha Snoring and Sinus Center. Whether it’s cockroaches, you’re allergic to or other indoor allergens such as pet dander or mold, why continue to suffer when relief is within reach?

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