Keep rodents in the cold this winter

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Greg Baumann
Greg Baumann


Your patients and guests won't be the only ones to notice when the heater turns on in your healthcare facility this winter. They aren't the only ones who will benefit, either.

Just like humans, rodents depend on regulating their body temperatures to survive. And just like humans, they will look to spend the cold winter months in climate-controlled comfort. This means that your patients and guests could have unwanted company in your facility as rodents look for a winter shelter. On top of the initial wave, the offspring of rodents that make their way into facilities in early winter will become a major issue in January. 

Once inside your facility, rats and mice pose several threats, including health hazards. Rodents can spread more than 35 diseases worldwide, including Hantavirus, salmonella and jaundice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans who suffer rodent bites, come in contact with their feces, urine or saliva or by handle the pest can be affected.

Rodents pose more than just health threats to your facility as well. Rats and mice are also capable of causing serious structural damage because they will gnaw on everything from wood and drywall to electrical wiring.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make sure rodents don't make a run on your facility this winter.

Watch for warning signs

Before you fortify your building against these pests, it's important to check for signs of an existing rodent infestation. If you spot any of the following, contact your pest management professional immediately:

  • Droppings – Mouse droppings are about the size of a grain of rice, and rat droppings are the size of a raisin.
  • Gnaw marks – Since rodents can chew through small openings, inspect any openings in the building that appear to be chewed or gnawed at the edges.
  • Rub markings – Look for greasy markings along walls, pipes and cables inside your facility. Rodents feel protected when they can crawl along a wall, so rub markings often indicate that rats and mice are regularly traveling along the same path.
  • Chewed bait – If you already monitor for rodents using exterior bait stations, chewed bait is another indicator of rodent activity.

Take the fight outside

To reduce the chances of rodents – and other pests, for that matter – from wreaking havoc inside your building, start fighting their advances on the outside.

You'll want to inspect the exterior of your building for any cracks and crevices that might provide an open door for rats and mice. Rats can pass through an opening as small as a quarter, while mice can squeeze through dime-sized gaps. Should you find any gaps, seal them with weather-resistant sealant and steel or copper mesh that rodents can't gnaw through.

If trees and shrubs grow near your building, cut back any branches and bushes to create a buffer around your facility's perimeter. Rodents can use trees, shrubs and mulch as harborage to wait for an opportunity to get inside.

As far as entrances are concerned, rodents see them as an invitation and will let themselves into your building if given the opportunity. To close those opportunities, consider installing two sets of automatic doors and using weather stripping on all doors and windows.

Stay sanitary

Standing water and uncovered garbage can give rats and mice and endless supply of nourishment, as well as a good reason to stick around your facility.

For starters, make sure your staff keeps break rooms clean and free of clutter. The same goes for kitchen and dining areas, where leftover food waste and crumbs will look like a free meal to mice and rats.

Talk with your pest management provider about sanitation guidelines and solutions that will eliminate pest attractants. Once you have a plan in place, make sure everyone on your staff knows their roles and stays on the lookout for any pest problems.

By following these steps, you'll help ensure that your patients, residents and guests are the only ones who use your facility over the winter.

Greg Baumann is Vice President of Training and Technical Service for Orkin. A degreed chemist and licensed pest management professional, his global pest management experience spans 30 years.  For more information, e-mail or visit 


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