(BPT) - For many pests, including rodents, spiders and cockroaches, the change in season indicates the need to find shelter from the colder temperatures ahead. In some cases, this shelter is the same place that keeps your family warm and dry.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds homeowners that fall pest-proofing is important to prevent pests from making their home in yours.

Unwanted pests are more than a just nuisance in the home. They pose serious health and property threats as well. Rodents can gnaw through wires causing structural damage, putting homes at risk for fire. Rodents also can carry diseases such as salmonella and hantavirus. Rodents can also cause secondary infestations by bringing fleas, mites or ticks into homes.

Other pests like cockroaches are known to trigger allergies and asthma symptoms - especially in young children - and some species of spiders, if disturbed, will bite in defense. 

“Pest prevention is a year-round process, and in anticipation of cooler weather, it's time for a change in the ways you protect your home from unwanted intruders,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA.  “Besides being a nuisance, pests can also pose health and property threats. Homeowners must take proactive measures to prevent pests from coming indoors." 

The NPMA recommends these fall pest-proofing tips for homeowners:

* Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys and any other areas where homes may be open to the outdoors.

* Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. Pests are attracted to areas of moisture, something they need to survive. Using dehumidifiers in basements and garages will help keep these areas dry.

* Seal cracks and crevices. Don’t forget about the outside of the home. Use caulk and steel wool to seal any potential entryways for pests. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure. Mice can fit through holes as small as the circumference of a dime.

* Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the home. These are easy ways to keep out not only pests, but also cold air.

* Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery in the yard trimmed back. Eliminating areas where pests can hide near your home can reduce the chance of them finding a way inside.

* Have a proper outdoor drainage system. Installing gutters or repairing an existing system will help draw water and moisture away from your home, preventing any leaks or build up that might attract pests.

* Work with a pest professional. The best way to protect against a pest infestation in your home is early prevention by following these pest-proofing tips. However, if you suspect an infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional to treat the problem.

Learn which pests are common in your area. For information about common pests and how to prevent them, visit www.pestworld.org.