July 25, 2011 5:01 pm
The days of driving around in endless circles trying to find and see all the homes you may want to buy is quickly becoming an activity of the past, thanks to several Smartphone programs and apps that I learned about this month from REALTOR® Barry Twynam (barrytwynam.com).
In the first of two segments on the subject, we’ll look at the apps to consider if you are in the market for a home. Twynam says many of these apps are available free for all types of smartphones, just check with your app store.
If you are shopping for homes, Twynam says Google Maps and Google Earth for mobile can show you where homes are located, and give you a feel for the neighborhood, the quality of other housing, accessibility, distance from busy streets and more.
Yelp Mobile with its reviews of businesses can give you some idea about what a neighborhood has to offer (shopping, restaurants, gas stations, etc.).
Zoocasa can search for properties based on your current location and receive full descriptions of properties. This app also allows users to email listings from within the app.
Home Tracker keeps track of all the details of the homes you visit with your REALTOR®. HomeTracker helps you to document each property in detail as you visit it. Properties are grouped into a tour, which is a set of homes you visited with your real estate agent, or homes in a specific area. In addition to storing property information, HomeTracker can easily take photos, map a property, e-mail property information, and perform a Google search, according to Twynam.
In the next segment we’ll look at Twynam’s bright ideas about mortgage apps.
July 25, 2011 5:01 pm
You’re in the drug store, looking for a fever-reducing medicine for your children. They range in age from 6 months to 7 years, and you want to buy one product you can use for all of them. So you buy liquid acetaminophen in concentrated drops for infants, figuring you can use the dropper for the baby and a teaspoon for the oldest.
This could be a dangerous mistake.
This use of concentrated drops in much larger amounts—as would be given with a teaspoon—can cause fatal overdoses, says Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of New Drugs.
You can’t just give an older child more of an infant’s medicine, adds Kweder. “Improper dosing is one of the biggest problems in giving acetaminophen to children.”
Confusion about dosing is partly caused by the availability of different formulas, strengths, and dosage instructions for different ages of children.
Sold as a single active ingredient under such brand names as Tylenol, acetaminophen is commonly used to reduce fever and relieve pain. It is also used in combination with other ingredients in products to relieve multiple symptoms, such as cough and cold medicines. Acetaminophen can be found in more than 600 over-the-counter (OTC, or non-prescription) and prescription medicines.
Acetaminophen is generally safe and effective if you follow the directions on the package, but if you give a child even a little more than directed or give more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen, it can cause nausea and vomiting, says Kweder.
In some cases—in both adults and children—it can cause liver failure and death. In fact, acetaminophen poisoning is a leading cause of liver failure in the U.S.
Advice from Outside Experts
An FDA Advisory Panel of outside experts met May 17-18, 2011, to discuss how to minimize medication errors and make children’s OTC medicines that contain acetaminophen safer to use.
The panel recommended:
• That liquid, chewable, and tablet forms be made in just one strength. Currently, there are seven strengths available for these forms combined.
• That dosing instructions to reduce fever be developed for children as young as 6 months. Current instructions apply to children ages 2 to 12 years and for those under 2, only state “consult a doctor.”
• That dosing instructions be based on weight, not just age.
• Setting standards for dosing devices, such as spoons and cups, for children’s medicines. Currently, some use milliliters (mL) while others use cubic centimeters (cc) or teaspoons (tsp).
“FDA is considering these recommendations,” says Kweder, and for those that the agency adopts, “we will work with manufacturers to try to get them in place on a voluntary basis.” The process of getting a regulation finalized could take several years, she adds, so having the drug industry act voluntarily would help make acetaminophen safer sooner.
Drug makers have already agreed to phase out the concentrated infant drops to reduce confusion for parents who try to use them for older children. On May 4, 2011, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group representing the makers of OTC medicines, announced plans to convert liquid acetaminophen products for children to just one strength (160 mg/5 mL). In addition, the industry is voluntarily standardizing the unit of measurement “mL” on dosing devices for these products.
Tips for Giving Acetaminophen to Children
• Never give your child more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at a time. To find out if an OTC medicine contains acetaminophen, look for “acetaminophen” on the Drug Facts label under the section called “Active Ingredient.” For prescription pain relievers, ask the pharmacist if the medicine contains acetaminophen.
• Choose the right OTC medicine based on your child’s weight and age. The “Directions” section of the Drug Facts label tells you if the medicine is right for your child and how much to give. If a dose for your child’s weight or age is not listed on the label or you can’t tell how much to give, ask your pharmacist or doctor what to do.
• Never give more of an acetaminophen-containing medicine than directed. If the medicine doesn’t help your child feel better, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
• If the medicine is a liquid, use the measuring tool that comes with the medicine—not a kitchen spoon.
• Keep a daily record of the medicines you give to your child. Share this information with anyone who is helping care for your child.
• If your child swallows too much acetaminophen, get medical help right away, even if your child doesn’t feel sick. For immediate help, call the 24-hour Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, or call 911.
This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
For more information, please visit www.fda.gov.
July 25, 2011 5:01 pm
A study released recently by Bankrate.com found that only 58% of Americans track their spending against a monthly budget. Bankrate's overall Financial Security Index fell from 97.8 in June to 95.6 in July, the lowest reading since April. Confidence in job security and savings dropped to 2011 lows.
The new study was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and can be seen in its entirety here: LinK: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/july-2011-financial-security-poll.aspx
Among the findings:
• Those with college degrees (66%) and those that are parents (65%) are highly likely to track spending against a budget.
• Least likely to track spending against a budget are those with a high school diploma or less (52%) and households with less than $30,000 in annual income (53%).
• Geographically, those in the Northeast (53%) are less likely to track spending against a budget than their counterparts in other parts of the country.
• 26% of Americans reported higher net worth than one year ago, whereas 25% reported lower net worth.
"A significant portion of the U.S. population would benefit from better budgeting habits," explains Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. "For example, we recently found that only 24% of Americans have adequate emergency savings. Consumers who create a monthly budget and stick to it are much more likely to be prepared for unexpected emergencies and more routine goals. Regardless of one's income level, it's critical to manage monthly cash flow and to properly assign funds to specific buckets such as a rainy-day fund, groceries and retirement. It's not good enough to wait until the end of the month and see what happens."
For more information, please visit www.bankrate.com.
July 25, 2011 5:01 pm
Contractor. One who contracts to do something for another. For example, in construction, a specialist who enters into a formal construction contract to build a real estate structure or handle renovations, improvements, and additions to an existing structure.
July 25, 2011 5:01 pm
Q: Should I avoid an adjustable rate mortgage?
A: Because adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, fluctuate with the market, they offer less stability than fixed-rate loans. If an ARM is adjusted upward, monthly payments will increase, and for a lot of people that can be too big a risk to take. On the other hand, should rates drop dramatically, homeowners can reap the benefits of lower rates without refinancing, thereby saving thousands of dollars.
Lenders first introduced ARMs in the 1980s when interest rates soared into the double digits, forcing many people out of the home buying market. They tied the rate to a variable national index, such as U.S. Treasury bills.
Today, many first-time buyers who have difficulty qualifying for a home loan, still settle for adjustable rate loans because the initial, “teaser” interest rate of the mortgage is normally two or three points lower than a fixed rate loan. ARMs are particularly attractive if you plan to be in your home a short time. They tend to adjust yearly or every three years, usually within certain limits, or caps, that prohibit the interest rate from shooting up too high. Make sure terms such as these are spelled out in any ARM agreement you choose.
July 22, 2011 4:59 pm
Summer is the time for hiking, gardening, picnicking, and simply enjoying the great outdoors. It is also prime tick season—which means increased exposure to the serious infectious diseases they carry.
“According to the New York Department of Health, ticks are most active late spring through mid-August,” says Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical BioMedics, Inc., Rhinebeck, NY, the makers of the Topricin line of natural pain relief and healing creams. “Now is the time to avoid contact with them and be aware of the symptoms of Lyme and Babesiosis, two dangerous tick-borne illnesses.
The Lyme disease bacterium (Borrelia burgdorfen) is carried by a group of closely related species of ticks known as Ixodes. Ticks in this group include deer ticks, western black-legged ticks, and black-legged ticks. These tiny terrors are small—typically no larger than a poppy seed—and transmit the bacteria when feeding on warm-blooded hosts, including mice, deer, dogs, and humans. The bacteria enter the skin through the bite during feeding and eventually make their way into the bloodstream.
Lyme disease is named after the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first diagnosed among a group of the town’s residents in the mid 1970s. Since then, Lyme disease has affected a growing number of Americans. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 23,305 cases of Lyme in 2005, and current statistics now estimates that more than 35,000 Americans contract it annually. Some experts believe the number of cases is much higher, and the CDC has gone on record as saying that they believe only 10-12% of Lyme disease cases are actually being reported to them. Most documented cases have occurred in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, with some incidences reported from western states, including Oregon and northern California. .
The NY Dept. of Health reports that in 60 to 70 percent of Lyme disease cases, the first symptom is a rash that occurs at or near the site of a tick bite and has a round, “bulls-eye” appearance. It can be between 2” and 6” in diameter, and lasts up to five weeks. Other symptoms occur from several days to weeks, months, and even years after a bite. They include “flu-like” symptoms, such as aches and pains in muscles and joints, chills and fever, headache, sore throat, stiff neck, swollen glands, dizziness, and fatigue. Even if these symptoms fade away, untreated Lyme disease may lead to arthritis, nervous system abnormalities, and an irregular heart rhythm.
Babesiosis is another infection transmitted by ticks and is caused by a parasite that lives in red blood cells. The babesia microti parasite infects and destroys red blood cells, and the disease—which is a malaria-like illness—can cause hemolytic anemia. Symptoms begin anywhere from five days after a bite or longer, and may include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea, tiredness, and a rash. Unlike Lyme, Babesiosis has been known to be fatal. Therefore diagnosis and treatment should begin as soon as possible after it is contracted.
The disease was originally documented off the Massachusetts coast, where it was known as “Nantucket Fever.” It is now on the rise and rapidly spreading across the United States. “According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were six cases of Babesiosis here in the Lower Hudson Valley in 2001,” says Paradise. “There were 119 cases documented in 2008, which is a 20-fold increase. Clearly, we should all take steps to avoid coming in contact with ticks.”
Because tick bites are usually painless, the incubation period is long, and the symptoms so varied, a tick-borne disease may go unrecognized for weeks or even months.
Moreover, these diseases often mimic other conditions—such as the flu, meningitis, or in some instances Multiple Sclerosis—making it easy for there to be a misdiagnosis. Further complicating matters is the fact that diagnostic tests are not always accurate or conclusive.
Test timing is a factor in diagnosis. According to Sally Hojvat, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Microbiology Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “It’s important to know that blood tests that check for antibodies to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease are not useful if done soon after a tick bite. It takes two to five weeks for initial antibodies to develop.”
A single tick bite can transmit more than one tick-borne illness—besides Lyme and Babesiosis—such as anaplasmosis, bartonella and tularemia. These co-infections further complicate diagnosis and treatment.
Tick-borne disease threat doesn’t end when a victim is bitten. There is some history documenting how an individual exposed to these pathogens can pass them through their blood—including from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, and through blood transfusions. In fact, the FDA has reported that over the past 10 years, babesiosis has infected more than 100 Americans via transfusions, and 11 of them have died. Federal regulators are now struggling with how to protect the blood supply because there is currently no efficient test available.
Prevention and Defensive Measures
Avoiding contact with ticks and disease prevention are the first and best lines of defense against tickborne infections. Here are some tips to help keep you and your family safe from these tiny threats.
Ticks—and disease—are carried by deer, mice, and other common woodland creatures. Keep these uninvited guests away by installing a deer fence and moving brush piles and wood piles (where mice find shelter) and bird feeders (a source of food for rodents) away from your house and play areas.
There are a number of plants you can cultivate around your yard that repel ticks, including lavender, garlic, pennyroyal, pyrethrum (a type of chrysanthemum), sage, American beautyberry, and eucalyptus.
If your lifestyle permits, raising chickens, ducks and guinea hens will help keep the tick population down as these feathered friends have a voracious appetite for them.
Keep your lawn manicured and avoid walking in wooded, brushy, and grassy areas. When hiking in an overgrown or wooded area, try to stay near the center of the trail. Do not sit on stone walls, where woodland creatures like to live—and which attract ticks.
Keep in mind that ticks attach easily to bare flesh. When outdoors, protect yourself and your children by wearing long sleeves and long pants, preferably in light colors so you can spot a tick more easily. Wear shoes and socks that you tuck pant legs into or a pair of tall boots.
Your four-legged friend may pick up an unwanted hitchhiker after being outside. Be sure to inspect pets for ticks after they’ve been outside as they may deliver a tick to you, and they can also become sick with Lyme disease.
After being outdoors, remove clothing and wash and dry at a high temperature as ticks may be lurking inside the folds and creases. Washing alone will not kill ticks—even with bleach—it’s the heat of the dryer that does the trick.
Take a shower or bath within two hours of coming back inside, then perform a whole-body tick check. In the case of Lyme disease, infection from a tick to a human typically takes 30 – 40 hours, so spotting and removing them quickly is an important first defense. (It is uncertain how long it takes for Babesiosis to spread).
If you discover a tick attached to you, carefully remove it. Using tweezers, grasp it close to the skin and pull straight back without twisting or yanking. There are also devices on the market today that are made for effectively and efficiently removing ticks. Avoid pressing or squeezing the tick’s belly as it can push bacteria into your body. Similarly, do not use the heat of a match that you light and blow out, or petroleum jelly. After you’ve removed the tick, disinfect the bite area. Save the tick for possible identification by a doctor or the local health department.
For more information visit http://www.topricin.com
July 22, 2011 4:59 pm
Such high temperatures, for prolonged days, have caused a spike in foundation repair says Julie from Dallas based Premier Foundation Repairs Inc. "The foundation of your house in Dallas are unfortunately sitting on very expansive soils. This type of soil is very sensitive to moisture, causing large amount of swelling and shrinking depending on how much water is present." The photo to the right shows a section of a lawn’s ground, only four days after a major storm.
Premier Foundation Repair Inc. has a few suggestions for the homeowners that will help prevent the need for foundation repairs:
1. The grounds’ moisture around the home's perimeter should remain as constant as possible.
2. Periodical use of a sprinkler system and soaker hoses together is the best solution. Homeowners should bury the soaker hoses 12-16” away from the foundation of their residence.
3. Water the yard at night when evaporation is greatly reduced to use less water and save money.
If an automatic sprinkler system is not available, homeowners should use the manual type and rotate it around the perimeter of the house. What is important is that the moisture levels around the perimeter of the house stay as constant as possible.
If a residence shows signs of foundation problems, the customer needs to remember that the root cause, most likely a moisture level issue, will need to be addressed in order for the foundation repairs to last permanently.
For more information, please visit http://www.premierfoundationrepair.com.
July 22, 2011 4:59 pm
Contingency. A provision in a contract that keeps it from becoming binding until a certain event happens. A satisfactory inspection report might be a contingency.
July 22, 2011 4:59 pm
Q: Are interest rates negotiable?
A: It depends who you negotiate with. Some lenders are willing to haggle on both the loan rate and the number of points, but this is not typical among more established lenders.
This is why it pays to shop around for the best loan rates. And know the market so that you sound informed when talking to a lender. Read the published rates in local newspapers or check the growing number of Internet sites that publish such information.
Also, always make a point to consider the interest rate along with the points to access which loan is truly the best.
Interest rates are much more open to negotiation on purchases that involve seller financing. While they are usually based on market rates, some flexibility exists when negotiating on the rate.
July 22, 2011 4:59 pm
Summer is the season of travel, and from June through August, many of us find ourselves snagging more in-flight time than usual. With extra-long security lines and overpriced airport eats, flying can be a real drag. But it doesn’t have to be. The following 5 tips will make your flight more comfortable.
1. Bag it right. If you are making a connecting flight, it’s a good idea to cough up the cash (usually around 20 dollars) and check your large luggage. Rushing between flights with a roll-on in tow is stressful, and uncomfortable. Instead carry on a large shoulder bag or tote, big enough for all your essentials. Pack snacks and a water bottle (bring it through security empty and fill at a water fountain). Staying hydrated while flying minimizes jetlag!
2. Layer it up. In a heat wave, the thought of putting on a sweater might seem absurd. But airports and planes usually have the AC pumping—wear or carry extra layers to make sure you aren’t shivering all the way to your destination.
3. Socks and shoes. Make sure your shoes are easy-on, easy-off to avoid a hold-up in security. While flip flops are ideal for summer traveling, be sure to pack socks! This way, you won’t have to walk around barefoot on the dirty airport floor. Plus, an optional extra layer for your toes will keep you comfy throughout the flight.
4. Earplugs. Between the engine humming and the noise of your neighbors—crying babies included—bringing earplugs will allow you to relax, and maybe snag some sleep, on your flight.
5. A blanket. Blankets are no longer offered on every flight, and if they are, they aren’t always laundered in between. Pack your own lightweight throw for extra comfort and warmth.