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7 holiday traditions that can trigger an allergic reaction

 

Don’t let allergies put a damper on your holidays.

When you wheeze through your fa-la-la’s and your nose rivals Rudolph’s, it’s a little tougher to feel jolly. Although allergies peak in the spring and fall, the holidays may surprise sensitive sufferers with a gift of unexpected triggers, from dusty decorations and potent potpourri to even–say it ain’t so–the Christmas tree. Here are seven yuletide allergens, and expert tips to help you stay focused on shopping and wrapping, not sneezing and scratching.

How To Keep Your Allergies From Ruining Your Day

1. Trigger: Christmas trees

That’s right–the one and only, the centerpiece of all things Christmas, that perfect fir you found hiding in the lot of freshly-cut trees that’s now twinkling with the lights you spent hours untangling – may be to blame for your stuffy nose, watery eyes and rash-y skin. “Mold is the biggest problem with live Christmas trees,” says Marilyn Li, MD, an asthma and allergy specialist with the Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center. “Often, they are cut in advance and kept in humid environments, promoting spore growth.” Within just two weeks of bringing a tree into your home, indoor mold counts can increase significantly, according to one study.

Other tree-related allergens: The sap contains terpene and other substances that can irritate skin and mucous membranes; and pollen stuck to the tree may be released inside and lead to reactions, adds Nathanael S. Horne, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU school of Medicine and fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. What about the artificial versions? They could harbor dust and mold from their time in storage, also triggering allergies.

Prevent it: Slip on gloves and wear long sleeves when handling your fresh tree to avoid the sap coming into contact with your skin. Before schlepping your tree inside, give it a good shake (or a blast with a leaf blower) and spray it down with a garden hose (especially the trunk) to help remove some of the pollen and mold, suggests Horne. Then sit the stump in a bucket of water and let the tree dry for few days on a covered porch or in a garage. For an allergen-free fake tree, give it a good wipe-down before decorating with lights and ornaments.

2. Trigger: Decorations

For eleven months out of the year, all your ornaments, lights, and holiday chotchkes sit stored out of sight, collecting dust and maybe developing mold. When the boxes of red, green, and gold goodies come out, the symphony of sneezing, coughing and nose-blowing commences.

Prevent it: Before decking your halls, mantels, windows and trees, wipe down each item thoroughly; when it’s time to repack, store your holiday trimming in airtight containers, and in a dry spot if possible. Also, go easy on the spray snow–you may love the look of frosted windows, but any aerosolized chemical can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose or lungs of a sensitive person, says Horne.

3. Trigger: Homemade pie

The fact that she makes “Why aren’t you pregnant yet?” the topic of Christmas dinner is enough to make you break out in hives – but the nuts that she baked into her dessert crust could be to blame, too. If you have food allergies, the holidays in particular are a ripe time for reactions, simply because you’re around so. much. food. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat. “Of those, peanuts and tree nuts will most often make it into holiday dishes without people knowing, and have the potential to cause severe reactions,” says Horne.

Prevent it: It’s a good idea to let your holiday host know about your food allergies; it’s important to ask about the ingredients in each dish; and it’s very nice to volunteer to bring something that’s safe for you, and shareable with others. But what’s crucial is to be prepared with an epinephrine auto-injector (Epi Pen), an emergency dose of antihistamine, and an inhaler if you have asthma–just in case, adds Li, director of the USC Breathmobile, a pediatric clinic that travels to schools and provides ongoing asthma and allergy care to children. Learn which foods and recipes are unexpected sources of allergens at FoodAllergy.org and AAAAI.org.

How To Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

4. Trigger: Cocktails

You raise a glass to your loved ones, your boss and colleagues, friends and neighbors, and even the strangers sitting next to you at a bar. There’s lots of cheers-ing this time of year, but be mindful of what you’re using to toast. Some people may experience mild wheezing or other symptoms from the sulfites in wine, for example, and certain alcoholic concoctions contain major food allergens.

Prevent it: There aren’t good tests for sulfite sensitivity, but your reaction to dried fruit–high in this sulfur-based preservative–could be an indicator, says Horne. Pay attention if you have asthma, as sulfites can trigger symptoms. Maraschino cherries contain small amounts of sulfites, as well. Stick with organic wine for a sulfite-free sip. Other triggers to be aware of: Tree nuts may be found specialty beers, particularly seasonal ales; milk is in Irish creme and white chocolate liqueurs; and egg whites may be used to add froth to specialty drinks.

Low Calorie Holiday Treats

5. Trigger: Poinsettia

This festive plant is a member of the rubber tree family and contains compounds similar to those found in latex, so stay away if you have a latex allergy. Certain groups of people–such as healthcare workers and people with spina bifida who have had numerous surgeries–are more likely to be allergic to latex, says Li, and one study showed that 40% of latex-allergic individuals were also allergic to poinsettias.

Prevent it: If you have a latex allergy, keep the iconic plant out of your house–not only can it give you a rash if you touch it, but inhaling the allergen can lead to serious respiratory problems, like shortness of breath and wheezing.

6. Trigger: Smelly stuff

Pine-infused potpourri, dessert-scented candles, cinnamon air sprays–while they will make your house smell like Christmas, they can irritate the nose and throats of allergy-sensitive people. “Candles in particular are an increasingly recognized source of indoor air pollution,” says Horne. “The same is true for air sprays and other types of air fresheners–they can release many different types of noxious compounds, which can generate adverse reactions in sensitive patients.”

Prevent it: If skipping the scents feels Grinch-like, try making your own potpourri with cinnamon sticks and cloves so you know what’s in the mixture, says Horne. And choose candles made of soy or beeswax, suggests Li. There’s not much smell, but you can still enjoy the warm glow. By the way, fireplaces are an absolute no-no for asthmatic patients–the ash and smoke can trigger an attack, so keep the log unlit.

7. Trigger: Shopping

Stress doesn’t cause allergies or asthma by itself, but it can hinder your immune system and be a trigger for asthma attacks, says Horne. Chemicals released by the body during stressful times can cause the muscles around your airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe.

Prevent it: All the deep breathing in the world probably can’t calm the chaos that comes with the season, but what you can do is make sure you take the steps to stay healthy: Stick to your controller medication regimen and get a flu shot, advises Li.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Teresa Dumain, Prevention

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You might see some holiday deals on these items, but you’ll likely get much better prices if you wait a bit.

 

With all the Black Friday ad leaks and sneak peeks unearthed in the past few weeks, this season’s shopping extravaganza is looking ripe with deals and discounts for all. But even though many product categories will see new all-time low prices, not everything will be a good purchase on Black Friday.

In some cases, you would be better off skipping certain deals and waiting for a better offer later on. Here are 10 items that are not worth buying this Black Friday.

Toys

We’ve said it many times already, and we’ll say it once more: Black Friday is not the best time to buy toys for the holidays. Many will likely still be discounted for Black Friday, and it may feel pretty good to get your shopping done early, but you won’t love that sinking feeling you’ll get when you see bigger discounts on those toys about two weeks before Christmas.

Game consoles without a bundled item

Speaking of toys, if you’re looking to buy any of the major video game consoles this holiday, you’re likely to get more bang for your buck by opting for one that comes with a few extras. While we’ve already seen a few choice Xbox deals in the leaked Black Friday ads, in years past the vast majority of Editors’ Choice console deals went to holiday bundles that included premium accessories and two or three game titles. These were frequently discounted 30% to 40% off their retail prices.

Brand-name HDTVs

Black Friday is an excellent time to invest in a new HDTV, as we predict a variety of size categories will hit their lowest price points. But don’t expect the best deals to be tagged with name brands. Typically, the rock-bottom prices will mostly apply to third-tier manufacturers. Instead, brand-name TVs tend to see their best price of the year in January and February as manufacturers look to clear stock in preparation for new models in the spring.

The latest digital cameras

There’s no shortage of digital camera deals around Black Friday, but keep in mind that the premium current-generation models are just a few months away from being replaced by a new line of 2013 options. If you’re eying a brand-new digital SLR, we recommend waiting until February or later when it becomes an “old model,” resulting in more aggressive discounts from retailers.

Christmas decorations

While not typically on anyone’s “To Buy on Black Friday” list, Christmas decor tends to end up in-cart as impulse buys. Sure, that string of lights or holiday wreath might be on sale, but deals on Christmas items get better the closer we get to the holiday itself — and of course are the best after the holiday.

Office supplies

For some, it may seem silly to advise against office supply deals on Black Friday, as it’s not typically a category associated with the shopping event. But for several years running, office supply stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax have released Black Friday ads in the hopes of encouraging an uptick in business. Unfortunately, these deals are generally no better than those we see throughout the rest of the year. In fact, during the entire Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday stretch in 2011, we only found a measly three Editors’ Choice deals in this category.

Jewelry and watches

We’re flagging this accessories category “do not buy” for the entire holiday season. Much like Christmas items, there will be lots of sales advertising shiny, metallic objects perfect for him or her. But the discounts on jewelry around the winter holidays are no better than those around Valentine’s Day, when baubles are at peak demand. And instead of buying a watch now, consider holding off until the spring and summer when we see more Editors’ Choice deals.

Winter apparel

During Black Friday, we’ll likely see some of the best apparel coupons of the year from a variety of retailers. However, if winter apparel is on your list, it’s smarter to hold off until January, when those items are added to clearance sales that take much deeper base discounts. We will inevitably find additional stacking coupons then too, to make those stronger sales even better for your wallet.

Apple iPad Mini

The long-awaited iPad Mini will set you back at least $329, and if it follows the price pattern of its distant predecessor, the first generation iPad, it won’t see a discount until several months from now. While there’s an off-chance that an attention-seeking retailer could offer an iPad Mini promotion — the latest full-size iPad is included in the Target Black Friday ad, after all — the bottom line is this: The iPad Mini features essentially the same innards as the iPad 2, and we’re predicting that the latter will fall to $299 this Black Friday. Therefore, the iPad 2 will offer more screen real estate at a lower price.

While we advise against purchasing the above products around Black Friday, keep in mind that nothing is written in stone, and we may still see some stellar deals within these categories. However, it’s more likely that we’ll encounter so-so offers, so it’s best to temper your expectations.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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Toys R Us says it’s starting its sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, other major chains’ BF ads hit deal sites.

 

Shoppers might have had a hard time keeping up with the flurry of Black Friday ads landing on deal sites over the weekend.

It seemed a new ad was leaked every couple of hours, including the popular parent destination, Toys R Us.

TRU’s 32-page ad boasted a whopping 200 doorbusters — most about half price. Many consumers who commented on deal sites such as BlackFriday.Gottadea​l.com thought it filled a toy gap this year as Wal-Mart and Target focused more heavily on video games and electronics.

Like several of its discount rivals, Toys R Us is starting its sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, with doorbuster sale prices on Thursday night and a separate sale on Saturday.

While not every hot toy was deeply discounted, there are many good bargains to be found, including:

  • Fisher-Price Rock Star Mickey — $19.98 (now selling for $40).
  • GeoTrax on the Go Zoo — $14.99 (regularly $30).
  • $15 bonus iTunes gift card with $50 iTunes gift card purchase.
  • 40% off all Lego sets.
  • Video games, buy one, get one for $1.
  • Skylanders Giants Starter Pack for $49.99 (regularly $75).
  • Garmin nuvi 50 5-inch portable GPS for 79.99 (regularly $120).
  • $5 board games, including Monopoly and Scrabble.

Some deals are to be found only in stores. And a footnote at the bottom of the ad said that online prices “may vary.” Online shoppers, however, can snag free shipping at Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com this season.

Be warned: While Toys R Us is offering a price-match guarantee through Dec. 24, last month it said it would not match competitors’ Black Friday prices.

Other Black Friday sale ads leaked this weekend, include those of home-improvement giants Lowe’s and Home Depot, and department stores Kohl’s and J.C. Penney. For once, troubled Penney’s did not even try to keep up with rivals’ Thursday openings, instead, pushing back its sale to 6 a.m. Friday, and eliminating last year’s free snow globes for shoppers.

Bah, humbug!
Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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The beleaguered retailer posts yet another dismal quarterly earnings report.

 

J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson continues to offer investors more spin than a dreidel at Hanukkah instead of actual results. His job is now clearly in jeopardy.

The iconic Plano, Tex., retailer Friday posted quarterly results that were even more dismal than Wall Street had feared. Its net loss narrowed to $123 million, or 56 cents a share, versus $143 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier. Total sales plunged an eye-popping 26.6% to $2.93 billion. Excluding one-time items, the loss was 93 cents a share. Wall Street had forecast a loss of 7 cents on revenue of $3.27 billion, according to Dow Jones. As earnings misses go, this one’s huge.

Not surprisingly, shares of J.C. Penney are plunging in early trading. They have fallen more than 38% since the start of the year. Johnson’s magic touch that served him well at Apple (AAPL +1.73%) has eluded him at J.C. Penney. Sensing that he may be on borrowed time, Johnson is pleading for investors to be patient. His hubris is remarkable.

“Today, JCP is really a tale of two companies,” he said in a press release. “By far the largest part of our store is the old J.C. Penney, which continues to struggle and experience significant challenges as evidenced by our third quarter results. However, the new JCP, centered around the shop concept, is gaining traction with customers every day and is surpassing our own expectations in terms of sales productivity which continues to give us confidence in our long-term business model.”

It’s hard to see what he means. Same-store sales, a key retail metric, plunged 26.1% during the quarter, indicating that Johnson’s store-in-a-store strategy, isn’t gaining traction. His gimmicks, such as free kid’s haircuts and family photographs, while interesting are not enough to convince these people to actually buy J.C. Penney merchandise.

Johnson has got plenty of self-confidence. Recently, he told Fortune, “We’re going to create an entirely new retail model that’s built for the next 100 years.” Some in the retail world are still convinced that Johnson is a genius who needs more time to realize his vision.

“Call me crazy, but this man has a reputation for vision and a track record that prompted members of the J.C. Penney board to hire him in the first place,” wrote David Selby, a former Sears (SHLD +1.08%,) executive, in Ad Age. “They wanted disruption, and they got it — but disruption is very, very messy and takes time.”

While Selby has a point, his call for patience doesn’t carry the same weight as Bill Ackman’s. The head of Pershing Square Capital, which owns about an 18% stake in J.C. Penney — far the retailer’s largest shareholder — earlier this year had argued that the retailer’s future under Johnson was bright. Whether he still feels that way is not clear.

If Johnson fails to produce decent results during the holiday season — and the odds are against him — the board will be forced throw in the towel and fire him. J.C. Penney would then be forced to sell itself at a fire sale.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jonathan Berr

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