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When you see evidence of cockroaches in your home, your first inclination may be to reach for the strongest bug spray you can find. But before you do, take a deep breath and think again. While pesticides will likely kill whatever unwanted visitors are infesting your home, they can also be harmful to you and your family.

Children are especially susceptible to harm from pesticides, because their bodies and immune systems are still developing. They are also more likely to be exposed to pesticides by crawling on the floor and putting their hands and other objects in their mouths.

But household pests can also be a danger to your family. Cockroaches produce allergens that can trigger asthma and allergies. Mouse droppings can also trigger asthma or allergies. Flies and mosquitoes can carry germs and diseases.

Fortunately, there are ways to control pests and keep your family safe, too. Following an approach called integrated pest management (IPM) can do both -- and also benefit the environment. Here are a few suggestions for safer pest control.

Pest Control: Practice Prevention First

The first step in IPM is prevention. The best way to control pests is to make your home unappealing to them. Just like us, pests need water, food, and shelter to survive, and if they can’t find these in your home, it’s likely they’ll go elsewhere.

Take these steps to discourage pests:

•      Pick up all food spills and crumbs right away.

•      Keep your counters, tables, sinks, and floors clean. Clean and dry dishes after having meals or snacks.

•      Clean under large kitchen appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves. Food debris can often collect in these spaces and attract pests.

•      Store food in containers with airtight lids or in the refrigerator. If food is stored in cardboard boxes, make sure the boxes are sealed. Cockroaches like cardboard and can get into opened boxes easily.

•      Keep your trash in a container with a tight lid, and take out the trash often. Place outdoor trash bins as far from your house as possible.

•      Fix household leaks and clean up any excess moisture on counters or sinks right away. Cockroaches like water and can swim.

•      Try to keep your home free of clutter. Piles of magazines, newspapers, and boxes can attract pests and provide a place for them to hide.

•      Vacuum carpets and cracks and crevices regularly.

•      Don’t leave pet food out overnight.

•      Fix any screens that have holes to prevent pests from entering.

•      Check for any openings or cracks where pests may enter your house, such as behind sinks, along baseboards, and around windows. Seal them.

•      If carpenter ants are a problem, look for damaged or wet wood and replace it. Carpenter ants are often attracted to damaged wood.

 

Check the foundation of your home for openings larger than one-quarter of an inch and seal them.

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