Almost 10% of children nationwide – and over 15% of Philadelphia’s school-age children are asthmatic. Asthma is a disease that causes the airways in the lungs to close up – it becomes very hard to breathe, and the patient may panic which can make attacks worse.
While the cause of asthma is unknown, things that can trigger attacks are well known. These include, cockroaches, mice, dust mites, pets, tobacco smoke, some pesticides and many chemicals, especially in aerosol sprays. (Aerosol droplets are very small and can trigger an attack themselves.)
Research done in North Carolina by Coby Schal, explains why cockroaches are considered the primary asthma trigger for urban children. Each fecal pellet – roach poop, called “frass” – contains enough of the allergen “Bla g1” to trigger many asthma attacks – only 8 units of the allergen are needed. Each and every pellet can contain 500 units of the allergen: enough to trigger over 50 allergy attacks!
Mouse urine also contains a potent allergen, Mouse Urinary Protein (MUP). Since mice dribble urine constantly as they travel, this invisible allergen can be encountered wherever mice have traveled.
Frass and mouse droppings should be cleaned with soap and water; strong chemicals, including bleach should be avoided. Strong chemicals may themselves trigger asthma attacks. They may also make some pest control measures – baits and gels - less effective. If heavy frass deposits resist cleaning, a natural, citus-based detergent (such as Citra-solv) may be used.
For information about asthma, see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page.
PA IPM Brochure: Asthma Pests and Pesticides