Pest-proof Your Home for the Sake of Your Health

Stan Goodson
Written by Stan Goodson
Updated March 18, 2015
Raccoons are one of the most common hosts of rabies in the United States. They can enter homes through attics or chimneys. (Photo courtesy of Angi member Laurie R. of Alexandria, Virginia)

Invaders of all sizes, from raccoons to cockroaches, are not only a nuisance, but can spread disease.

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What do raccoons and cockroaches have in common? Despite their difference in size, both are pests that can invade your home, no matter the season.

Especially in the winter, pests — large, small and in between —  are searching for food and shelter. They can invade your house, contaminate your food, cause damage to your home and even spread disease.

So which pests should you be looking out for and how can you prevent these unwanted visitors from becoming a problem?

Learn about some common winter pests and how to keep them from settling in your home.

Mice

House mice are the most common pests in the United States. These mice usually set up their nests in dark, secluded areas such as attics and basements. These rodents can cause serious property damage by chewing through drywall and electrical wires, which can cause a fire. House mice are known to contaminate food and spread diseases such as salmonella and tapeworm.

● House mice can fit through openings as small as a dime. To prevent them from entering, seal all the cracks and holes on the outside of your home with caulk and steel wool.

● Routinely check your home for signs of mice such as droppings, gnaw marks and any damaged food or packaging.

● Store boxes and other items off the floor. Mice like to hide in clutter.

Rats

Rats can be found nesting in basements, piles of debris and other cluttered materials. These pests are known to chew through almost anything, including plastic or lead pipes, to get to food and water. Rats carry many diseases such as rat-bite fever and cowpox.

● Rats can fit through an opening as small as half an inch (about the size of a quarter). Check for any cracks or gaps outside your home and fill them will silicone caulk.

● Check your home for any signs of infestation, including greasy rub marks caused by the rat’s oily fur.

● Get rid of any sources of moisture in crawl spaces and basements.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches prefer to live in small areas that are close to food and moisture, which is why human homes make the best habitat for them. Cockroaches can make their way into your home via boxes, grocery bags and second-hand appliances. They are usually found in kitchens and bathrooms. Cockroaches can contaminate food sources and spread bacteria and pathogens. Cockroach allergens can trigger allergies that will flare up asthma symptoms, especially in children.

● Vacuum and dispose of garbage regularly.

● Keep an eye on kitchens and bathrooms, especially under appliances and sinks.

● Make sure counters and floors are clean and free of crumbs.

Brown recluse spiders

Recluse spiders set up their webs in isolated and undisturbed places such as closets, attics, crawl spaces and basements. Like other spiders, the brown recluse usually can be found near window moldings, boxes, ceiling corners and in seldom-used clothing and shoes. If disturbed, these spiders can bite and inject venom, making them a danger to humans.

● Keep unused seasonal clothing and shoes inside plastic containers. Be careful when putting on clothing and shoes that haven’t been worn in a while, as spiders like to hide in these items.

● Trim trees limbs and shrubs so they are not making any contact with your home. This helps to reduce the chance that they can find an entrance inside.

● If you believe you are the victim of a spider bite, seek medical attention immediately. Reactions to brown recluse bites vary, but they can be extreme.

Raccoons

These clever pests are usually found in the woodland parts of the country. They can enter homes through attics or chimneys in search of an area where they can set up a den. Raccoons are one of the most common hosts of rabies in the United States.

● Keep trash cans and recycling bins in enclosed areas, such as a locked shed. If you keep your trash cans outside, use animal-proof lids.

● Check the outside of your home for any entry points, such as broken vent covers or other large openings. Make sure to repair any loose siding or shingles.

● Put a mesh cover or cap on chimneys and other exposed areas to prevent entry. Make sure to keep tree branches near the house trimmed.

If you already receive regular pest control maintenance in your home, simply continuing it through the winter can help to keep winter pests out of your home. For more information, don’t be afraid to call your local pest control company.

As of March 18, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angi. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

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