Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer This Summer With These 5 Tips

About 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the U.S., and 20 percent of people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer at some point during their lifetimes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. About half of all Americans will have either a basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma – the two most common types of skin cancer – by the time they reach the age of 65.shutterstock_308218160.jpg

Most skin cancers develop as a result of sun exposure, and since May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it’s a great time to learn about the steps you can take to make sure your skin stays as healthy as possible.

  1. Understand the SPF value of the sunscreen you’re using. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to choose a product that also provides protection from UVA radiation. And for extra measure, make sure it’s waterproof so it doesn’t come off while swimming or perspiring.
  2. Use sunscreen correctly. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading out – that’s how long it takes it to penetrate the skin – and reapply it every two hours or more often if swimming or sweating heavily. Use about an ounce for each application – as much as would fill a shot glass to the brim or fill the palm of your hand – and rub sunscreen into your skin to help it absorb.
  3. Wear protective clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat protects your scalp and provides extra protection for your face, and don’t forget sunglasses and lip balm with UV protection to protect your scalp and lips. For really bright days, consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt for an added layer of protection.
  4. Know when to stay out of the sun. The sun is at its brightest and most damaging from 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m., so stay in the shade during those hours – and if you must be in the sun, be extra vigilant about your use of sunscreen.
  5. Have routine skin cancer screenings. Ask your dermatologist or family doctor how often you need to be screened for skin cancer. Screening is a simple exam that takes just a few minutes, and it could wind up saving your life. Have your children screened too.

Enjoying the outdoors is one of the pleasures of summer, and these five simple tips will help ensure you can continue to revel in all summer has to offer without worrying about skin cancer.

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Animals and Heat Don’t Mix: 6 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe This Summer

The heat of summer can take a toll on people, and it can be just as tough – or even more so – on animals. Taking a few extra precautions during the summer months can help ensure your beloved pets stay safe during even the hottest dog days of summer:shutterstock_153695291

  • First, don’t take your pet for car ride during warm months. Temperatures inside a car – even when the windows are cracked – can soar to well above 100 degrees very quickly, and each year, thousands of pets die as a result of being kept in cars while their owners “make a quick trip” to a store or other venue. Even if you don’t plan to get out of the car, a situation may arise that requires you to leave the vehicle, and that can spell disaster for your beloved pet. Leave them home and resume trips when the cool months of fall return.
  • Make sure your pet is indoors on summer’s scorching hot days. Doghouses provide very little protection from the scorching sun, and the temperatures inside can easily rise to deadly temperatures. If your pet must be outside for any length of time during the day or even the night, make sure they have plenty of fresh water and try to include a covered and protected area that stays shaded at all times.
  • Don’t take your pets to fireworks displays, and if you and your pet live near an area where fireworks are used, be sure your pet is safely secured in your home during the event. Each year, thousands of pets across the country run away during 4th of July events as a result of the loud and often disorienting noises. If you live in an area where your pet can hear the noises of fireworks, plan to spend time with them during the event so they feel secure. The Humane Society offers a list of helpful tips to make sure your pet stays safe.
  • Protect your pet from too much sun. Animals can become sunburned just like people, so keep your pet protected from too much sun exposure, especially if they have thin fur or light-colored fur.
  • Keep an eye on your pet if you’re barbecuing or using a firepit. Each year, many animals are seriously injured as a result of contact with grills and firepits. Keep your pets clear of the area while these items are in use.
  • Consider microchipping your pet. Collars and tags can be lost, but microchips are implanted, so they stay put, enabling your pet to be identified if it gets lost. Many vets provide low-cost microchipping services. And while you’re in the office, be sure your pet is vaccinated against heart disease, Lyme disease and rabies.

Enjoy your summer, and make sure your pets enjoy it too. Visit the Humane Society website for more tips on keeping your pets safe this summer and all year round.

4 Important Tips to Keep Yourself, Your Loved Ones and Your Home Safe this Vacation Season

Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start planning for vacation season. Whether you plan on taking a long-distance respite or you prefer sticking closer to home this spring and summer, staying safe – and keeping your home safe while you’re away – can go a long way toward making your R&R much more pleasant and relaxing. Here’s what you can do to help ensure you, your home and your loved ones stay safe this vacation season:shutterstock_152536469

  • Stay “mum” on social networks. When you’re excited about getting away, it’s only natural to want to share that excitement. But talking about your plans on social networks – even those you mark “private” – can inadvertently serve as a signal to would-be burglars that your home is empty. Instead of posting about your plans ahead of time, wait until you come home to share the good news.
  • Ask neighbors to keep an eye on your house and to report suspicious activities. Be sure to put your mail “on hold” and ask your neighbor to take in any flyers that might be left in your door. If your neighbor has a spare car, having them park it in your driveway can create the appearance of someone being home. Timers for lights are also a good investment; remote-controlled units let you control lights from your laptop or smartphone so you can vary the time you turn lights on and off.
  • Spring break travel plans? Make sure someone knows your itinerary and consider scheduling routine check-ins, especially if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar or you’re going alone. If you plan on drinking during your spring break getaway, set limits – and stick to them – to avoid making rash and unsafe decisions, and never leave your drink unattended. Don’t go anywhere with strangers and try to go places in groups, or at least with one other person.
  • Consider installing a security system. Today’s systems can be monitored remotely, and if you include cameras, you can even keep an eye on your property as well as record activity for later review. The price of security systems has dropped dramatically in recent years, and many systems are designed so even an unskilled DIYer can install them without hassle. Plus, some systems offer additional options to check for water damage, power outages and other issues that could potentially cause damage to your home.

One more quick tip: Before you head out on vacation, give us a call to make sure you have plenty of insurance coverage. Being protected “just in case” can go a long way toward helping you stay relaxed so you can get the most from your well-deserved vacation.

Want to cut gluten out of your diet? Use these tips – and recipe sites – to get started

In recent years, there’s been a lot of attention focused on gluten and its effects on the body and on health in general. Gluten has been associated with several disorders and conditions, including digestive-related conditions such as celiac disease. People who have gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance) have reported a host of symptoms, including abdominal cramping, diffuse aches and pains, and other symptoms that can take a big toll on the activities of daily life. But what is gluten, and how could eliminating gluten from your diet help you enjoy better health? Here’s some background.

What is gluten?

Gluten refers to a group of proteins found in some grains, including wheat, rye and barley. Gluten has certain elastic properties that help foods hold their shape, and it can be found in a wealth of foods — some expected, like breads, pastas and cereals, and some unexpected, like many bottled sauces, canned foods, and even chips and cookies. Because so many products contain gluten, learning to read labels and cook from scratch are essential when following a gluten-free diet.shutterstock_245254981.jpg

What are the benefits of a gluten-free diet?

Gluten has been suggested as a cause for many conditions, including:

  • Gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and constipation.
  • Fatigue or “brain fog,” especially after eating gluten.
  • Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Migraines or other headaches.
  • Swelling or discomfort in the joints.
  • Fibromyalgia or chronic regional pain syndrome.
  • Problems with mood, including irritability, anxiety or depression.

Where can I find gluten-free recipes?

If you’re ready to give gluten-free cooking a try, the Internet has a wealth of recipes to help you cut out gluten without losing out on nutrition — or flavor. Here are three top sites to check:

  • com is the Internet’s leading recipe site, and it has lots of gluten-free recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts, plus the forum offers lots of cooking advice and tips.
  • com is where you’ll find plenty of gluten-free recipes from television’s top cooks and cooking experts.
  • The Celiac Disease Foundation provides almost 800 gluten-free recipes as well as plenty of information about the reported health effects related to gluten.

Before making any permanent change to your diet, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity. But you can start today by trying a few recipes and incorporating them into your regular roster of meals. It’s easier than you think to start cooking gluten-free.

From Returning Christmas Presents to Redeeming Gift Cards, These Tips Can Help You make the Most of Your Holiday Gifts

If you’re like most people in the U.S., chances are pretty good you’re facing one of two dilemmas – or maybe both – following the 2015 Christmas holiday season:

  • You received at least one Christmas gift that’s just not to your liking and you want to return it.
  • You received a gift card – either to a specific retailer or a generic card – and you’re wondering what’s the best way to use it.

Luckily for you, we’ve got some tips to help you out:

Returning Gifts

  • If a gift receipt wasn’t included, ask the giver if you can have the receipt to make returns a lot easier. Don’t feel comfortable asking? Most retailers will make a return even without a receipt – but chances are you’ll only get the lowest price, which means if the item has ever gone on sale, you may not recapture the price that was actually paid.
  • Return the item as soon as possible to ensure you’re well within the return deadlines set by the store. Some items like electronics have short return deadlines, while other items may be returned up to 90 days or sometimes longer, depending on the retailer.
  • If an item was purchased online but has a brick and mortar store near you, returning in person can result in far fewer hassles than trying to return an item online, especially if you don’t have the receipt or order slip. Most online retailers require the order number in order to process a return.
  • To avoid the crush of shoppers returning items after Christmas, try to hit the stores early in the day or later in the evening if possible. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a wait.

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  • Be mindful of expiration dates. Most cards are good for at least five years and some never expire, but check the dates and any fees associated with the card to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Combine your card with a coupon or sale to get the most “bang for your buck.”
  • If you received a card to a retailer you don’t like, use it to buy gifts for someone else during the year or regift the card directly (just be sure the recipient doesn’t know the original giver, and only regift it if the card doesn’t have a holiday theme).
  • Another option for unwanted cards: Sell the cards online. There are several reputable sites for reselling gift cards to reap some cash. Two to consider: GiftCardGranny.com and PlasticJungle.com.

Of course, another option is to donate the gift or card to a charity and take a tax deduction. And remember: Even when a gift isn’t exactly what you’d choose for yourself, just the thought, time and effort a person placed into your gift should be plenty to make you smile.

Offering Group Health Insurance to Employees Has Major Advantages for Employers, Too

If you’ve ever held a job, you know just how vitally important it can be to have an employer who offers health insurance.  Although the Affordable Care Act was designed to help everyone find affordable healthcare insurance, having an employer who offers health insurance at a reduced rate isn’t just convenient – it can also be a huge money-saver for the men and women who help you build your business day in and day out.

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The benefits of offering group health insurance for your employees go well beyond your workers; there are plenty of advantages for employers, as well.  For instance, by offering group insurance for your employees:

  • You can attract employees with the highest qualifications. Today’s employees understand and appreciate the value of work-based healthcare insurance, and that means the best employees are going to look for employers who offer health insurance as part of their benefits package.  Plus, offering insurance also helps ensure that you retain your top employees, reducing turnover that can have a major impact on your productivity and your bottom line.
  • You gain important tax advantages. Employers who offer insurance can deduct the costs of that insurance as a business expense, and if the business is incorporated, the owner’s insurance costs can also be deducted.
  • You may qualify for a tax credit. If you have fewer than 25 employees, your company might qualify for a small business healthcare tax credit equivalent to as much as 50 percent of your premium costs.
  • You can increase employee loyalty – and that can lead to greater productivity. Employees appreciate having insurance at lower rates and they also appreciate not having to navigate the healthcare marketplace to find insurance year in and year out.  As a result, they’re more likely to be happier while on the job, and that can translate into higher productivity and improved employee morale.
  • You demonstrate your commitment to your employees’ health and financial well-being. This last one is hard to measure outside of personal “feel good” points, but offering insurance does position your company as one that cares about its employees – and that can set you far above many of your competitors.

Group health insurance doesn’t have to be costly; in fact, with current tax incentives, offering insurance for your employees can make tremendous financial sense for businesses of all sizes, even those with just a few employees.  To learn more about group health insurance and to see how affordable it can be, give us a call and let us review your needs.

Score Black Friday Deals Safely, at the Shopping Mall or Online, with These Simple ID Theft Prevention Tips

Thanksgiving is close upon us, and that means it’s almost time for turkey, football and family gatherings.  Of course, it also means Black Friday isn’t far behind, with its amazing Black Friday deals, just waiting to be snapped up.  Come Thursday night, once the last slice of pumpkin pie is eaten and all the dishes have been cleared away, millions of normally calm men and women will be setting their alarms to wake up bright and early so they can join the frenzied antics that have become as much a part of the holiday weekend as college football games. Matsen November

If you count yourself among those hardy shoppers intent on scoring the best of this year’s Black Friday deals, we have a few tips that can help you stay safe, whether you choose to head to the local shopping mall or score your deals online – or both.

  • You may have multiple credit cards, but to keep shopping simpler and safer, try to restrict your spending to one card. Using just one card makes it easier to track activity on your card once you get home so you can reduce the risks of credit card fraud.
  • Shield your card information from view when using it to check out in stores, and don’t leave your credit card in your car; shopping mall parking lots are favorite targets for thieves, especially on busy shopping days like Black Friday.
  • Be careful when using ATMs – some thieves place small devices on ATMs that scan card information. Once the device has been in place for a while, the thieves return, grab the device and download ATM card information.  Before inserting your card, check the device opening to make sure it doesn’t look unusual.
  • When shopping online, see if your credit card issuer offers temporary or “virtual” card numbers that can be used for a specific amount of money or for a single purchase. Virtual card numbers let you use your credit card without exposing your card information to potential identity thieves online.
  • Be careful when clicking on special offer or coupon codes, especially ones that arrive in your email box from an unknown sender. Some “clickable” codes download spyware that can steal your credit card information.  Instead, stick to reputable coupon sites like Ebates.com, CouponCabin.com and RetailMeNot.com, or see if your credit card offers coupon codes.
  • Use gift cards. You can avoid identity theft entirely (and avoid the hassle of toting a lot of cash to the shopping mall) by buying gift cards ahead of time and using them to purchase Black Friday deals.  Gift cards also help you curb your spending so you don’t wind up with nasty surprises when the January credit card bills start rolling in.

Holiday shopping can be fun and exciting, and by taking these few extra precautions to protect your identity, it can be safe, too.