Health and home

Guarding your home against unwanted visitors

Sarah Leroy
Image by: Tyler Ball
Sarah Leroy

As if dust bunnies and dirty housemates weren’t enough, winter can mean the arrival of uninvited creatures at your house.

Luckily, Heather Mowatt, ArtSci ’09, and Lauren Ferenbach, ArtSci ’10, have learned how to guard their house and their health.

When Mowatt realized they had rats in their house, they decided to act.

“I was paranoid about health risks,” Mowatt said. “So I bought masks, gloves and bleach to clean up, then called my landlord and he set up the traps.”

Mowatt said keeping the house clean is important to them because some of her housemates could suffer severe health problems if they don’t.

“We have asthmatics in the house and none of us want the bubonic plague,” she said.

To avoid this, Ferenbach said her housemates use a chore list to keep the house in order. Housemates are responsible for cleaning their toilet, shower, mirrors, the floors and even the toothbrush cup.

“We implemented a chore list as a supplement to the chore wheel,” she said. “It explains to all chore doers what needs to be done so nobody half-asses it.”

But not all unsanitary conditions are the result of lazy housemates. Sometimes, these things can take on a life of their own.

Kyle Maxwell, ArtSci ’10, was surprised to discover mould growing on his bedroom walls and decided to act.

“I cleaned it off the walls with hot water and bleach,” he said. “I think it grew because there isn’t a vent in the room.”

Sarah Leroy, a Public Health Inspector from the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health Unit, said the two largest issues facing students living in a house are mould and pests.

“Sanitation cannot be stressed enough,” she said. “Mould affects the quality of the air within the house … and it only takes one mouse before you have an infestation.”

Leroy said the main problem is that mould and pests may aggravate previously existing health conditions such as asthma, skin irritations and allergies.

Students must be diligent in removing moisture from their home, Leroy said.

“Keeping good air circulation is important,” she said. “Simple things like boiling water add humidity to the air, so use a fan if possible.”

Leroy said keeping furniture an inch or two away from the wall is another good way to avoid mould; it prevents moisture from seeping into it.

“If you already have mould … use warm water and bleach several times and keep the area well ventilated.”

To avoid a mouse infestation, Leroy said temperature plays an important role.

“Mice seek the warmth of a home,” she said. “Preferably homes with a food source, such as garbage cans with no lid, dry foods that are not stored in sealed containers and dishes that have been left out.”

Leroy advises students who have mice activity to put traps two to three centimeters from the baseboards because that is where mice usually run. Students should avoid coming into contact with pest urine and droppings since mice and rats are carriers of diseases, students should practice safe cleanup procedures.

She said students can also get rid of pests by turning to outside help.

“If you decide to contact a pest control company, it is imperative that they are licensed by the Ministry of the Environment.”

Leroy said because some student housing is old, it is impossible to keep it as clean as a brand new one.

“By keeping the house as clean as possible, you lower the risks of mice, mould, food contamination and even regular colds.”

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