Could a Pest Infestation Leave You Short of Breath?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 @ 01:10 PM



People who suffer from outdoor allergies and asthma need to have a home that's a sanctuary from the allergens that can cause discomfort and shortness of breath.

Unfortunately, allergens can sometimes find their way inside the home, which can make the house feel like less of a respite and more of a trap. What you may not know is that if you're experiencing outdoor allergy symptoms inside the home, you might have a pest problem.

Learn about three pests you might be allergic to and what signs you should look out for.


You don’t want cockroaches inside your home for a number of reasons. They're ugly to look at, and they can carry germs and contaminate food, just to name a few. However, they may be responsible for even more serious problems in allergy and asthma sufferers.

Cockroaches produce allergens that are similar to those produced by dust mites. These allergens can be found in cockroach feces as well as in body parts. When the allergens become airborne, you can breathe them in, resulting in symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Some evidence suggests that exposure to cockroach allergens could cause asthma in preschoolers.

Cockroach allergens become airborne when they're disturbed, such as when you dust or vacuum an area where they've collected. Allergens can also settle into bedding and pillows, which means that you may breathe them in while you're sleeping.

Cockroaches are good at hiding, so if you see one or two around the house, that's a pretty good indication that there are more hiding in the nooks and crannies of your home. You may also find cockroach droppings that resemble coffee grounds or black pepper. If you notice these signs along with increased difficulty breathing or other allergy symptoms, contact an exterminator.


When it comes to ants, you probably worry more about being bitten than about potential breathing problems. Some ants have a powerful sting, and some people may have allergic reactions to being bitten by ants. However, you can also have an allergic reaction even to ants that don't bite.

Pharaoh ants are small yellow ants that can be found almost anywhere in the country. These ants do not bite, but they do find their way into many homes. They can often be found in bathrooms or kitchens because these rooms are where they're most likely to find food and water.

Research studies discovered that pharaoh ants could trigger breathing problems in some patients. Two middle-aged asthma patients reported breathing problems, but their homes didn't contain any other obvious causes of breathing problems, such as mold or pet dander.

Both patients believed that the ants were to blame for their breathing difficulties. After grinding up ants to make ant extracts, researchers tested the patients for allergic responses to the extracts and found that the patients were correct — their respiratory problems were an allergic reaction to the ants.

Note that not all asthma patients exhibited the same sensitivity when tested. However, the results from these two patients show that pharaoh ants can cause worsening asthma symptoms in some patients, so you might consider exploring this possibility if you have increased asthma symptoms and notice ants inside your home.


Rats are another type of common house pest that could be responsible for breathing problems in the home. People who suffer from rat allergies are generally allergic to either the rat's urine, the rat's saliva, or dead skin cells from the rat's body, otherwise known as dander.

Allergic reactions to rats can include skin rashes, itching skin or eyes, coughing, and a runny nose in addition to breathing problems. Even if you don't see rats, they can leave allergens in many parts of the house.

Rats groom themselves using saliva, which means that rat hair can be allergenic. Rats also have a tendency to track urine through the home with their feet, which means that rat urine can wind up anywhere, not just in the area where the rats hide.

Rats can hide inside walls, in attics and basements, and in garages, to name a few places. Signs of a rat infestation include droppings that look like large grains of rice, smudge marks from grease or dirt on their bodies, and scratching noises, especially at night. If you notice these signs in conjunction with increased allergy symptoms, you may have a rat allergy.

The best way to protect your health and is to keep pests out of your home to begin with. For people who already suffer from asthma or allergies, pest prevention can be especially important.

To investigate a possible infestation or for preventative services that will keep your home pest-free and allow you to breathe more easily, contact Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc. We can make your home a sanctuary once more.