Make Sure Your Children’s Holiday Gifts are Safe

December 17th, 2014

Hands exchanging a giftHoliday gift giving can be a fun and meaningful experience, but it can also be potentially hazardous for children. Make sure the toys you are wrapping are safe to play with.

Buyer Beware

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made or imported into the United States after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.  Here are some types of toys that should make the buyer beware:

  • Brightly painted toys: If made in the Pacific Rim countries, these toys are dangerous due to lead paint. Children mouthing toys for extended periods can get lead poisoning, which can cause neurological damage.
  • Ceramic or pottery toys: If manufactured outside of the United States these toys could have lead paint.
  • Pull toys with strings: Toys which have string that is more than 12 inches in length can be a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • Magnetic toys
  • Toys that are not age appropriate: Toys that are intended for older children can harm younger ones. Older children who play with toys intended for younger ones can be injured when out of boredom; they seek unintended uses for toys.
  • Toys with small parts: These types of toys are a choking hazard for young children. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 ¼ inches in diameter and 2 ¼ inches long.

It is also important to steer clear of older toys and hand-me-downs as they may not meet current safety standards. They may be so worn from previous years that they can break and become hazardous.

Toy Guidelines

Manufacturers follow certain guidelines and label most new toys with specific age groups. General guidelines to keep in mind when purchasing toys:

  • Age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence. Shop for the appropriate chronological age.
  • Art materials should say non-toxic
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Make sure the toy isn’t too loud for your child. The noise of some rattles, squeak toys and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn. It is even louder if a child holds it directly to their ear and can contribute to hearing damage.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.

The best thing a parent can do to ensure safe play is to supervise their children.

After the Presents are Opened

Parents should check toys regularly to make sure they are not broken are unusable. Some toys that might need to be checked over are:

  • Bikes and outdoor toys for rust
  • Stuffed toys for broken seams or exposed removable parts
  • Wooden toys for splinters

Throw away broken toys or repair them right away.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that giving the children in your life a perfect gift can feel very important. What is equally important is making sure that the present is safe. IAA wants you to think about safe gift giving this holiday season. Just think of IAA as your third party Santa’s helper.

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Holiday Parties: Should You Have the Red Wine?

December 10th, 2014

Red Wine GlassesWith the holidays come holiday parties where alcoholic drinks are usually served. While copious amounts of alcohol are certainly not good for you, could red wine actually help your health?

Reservatrol and Red Wine

Reservatrol, an antioxidant found on the skin of red grapes, might be the key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to the body:

  • Blood clot: Reservatrol is linked to a reduced risk of blood clotting---blood clotting can lead to heart disease.
  • Blood vessels: Reservatrol may help activate sirtuin1 a protein that protects the heart from inflammation, which keeps the lining of the blood vessels safe.
  • HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol): Reservatrol increases HDL levels.
  • LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol): Reservatrol lowers LDL levels.
  • Obesity: Scientists found that reservatrol influenced fat cells’ form and function. Reservatrol blocked immature fat cells from developing and differentiating, which in turn, affected the fat cell’s ability to function.

A four ounce glass of wine is equivalent to one serving. Men can benefit from one or two servings. Women should only consume one serving. This is not to say you should start drinking alcohol if you presently do not.

Please note: Neither the American Heart Association or the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease.  It is more important and helpful to select foods packaged with nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables, than alcohol. The health benefits of alcohol do not outweigh the risks of being overweight or obese. 

The French Paradox

According to a 2014 study, reservatrol supplements have become a $30 million a year industry in the United States. Another study in 2014 also casts some doubts upon the health benefits of reservatrol. If reservatrol is not a health benefit, then it does not explain the French Paradox. This refers to the fact that French people often have diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but have unusually low levels of heart disease. Reservatrol has helped to explain this paradox.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to think before you pick up a drink. If you are going to be consuming alcohol at you upcoming holiday parties, don’t you want to have the drink that could be beneficial to your health? IAA also wants you to remember that you do not have to drink to have fun at your holiday parties (though sometimes it can feel helpful when nosy relatives are around). IAA wants you to have a fun and safe holiday season. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Click here and here.

Holiday Parties: Don’t be Nervous About Small Talk

December 3rd, 2014

Holiday PartyTis the season for holiday parties, which can mean a ton of small talk headed your way. Many people find small talk difficult or overwhelming. If you engage in small talk with confidence, holiday parties might not be as difficult as you may think.

Introverts and Small Talk

Introverts can feel anxious and overwhelmed in a party setting, but that does not mean they have to sit out of parties’ altogether! Introverts have trouble sometimes mastering the art of small talk. Here are some tips for introverts on how they can manage the holiday party scene without feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Address your stress: Anxiety can increase for introverts as the party gets closer. Exercise and meditation can help reduce your stress levels.
  2. Prepare: Coming up with topics you would like to discuss beforehand can help grease the social wheels
  3. Be first: It may seem counterintuitive, but arriving before everyone else has its benefits. You can help the host and by doing so you meet numerous people in a non-awkward way. Assisting at the party can help relieve anxiety.
  4. Eat, drink and be merry: When you get to the party head toward the food and beverages. Having something in your hand can make you feel more comfortable.
  5. Seek out the extroverts: Ask the life of the party for a piece of advice and watch them go. Hopefully those who are standing around you will join in the conversation and then you will be in the swing of the party.
  6. Listen to your body cues: It is time to leave the party for an introvert when they feel their energy level has depleted.
  7. Realize you are not alone: Introverts make up 20 to 30 percent of the population.

The major difference between chit-chat and small talk is that small talk is typically carried out between strangers whereas chit-chat is not necessarily between strangers. This may be a clue as to why people might find small talk uncomfortable. It involves people we don’t know well, so there is more cause for embarrassment if small talk doesn’t work out.

Holiday Party Conversation Mistakes

Engaging in small talk with confidence is key and using appropriate language can make a huge difference in the outcome. Here are some small talk mistakes you want to avoid during your upcoming holiday parties:

  • Abruptly ending the conversation
  • Asking closed questions (those with a yes or no answer) instead of open ones (those which require a longer explanation).
  • Discussing taboo topics
  • Displaying closed body language that says, “I’m not interested in talking to you.”
  • Not adding any information when asked a yes or no question
  • Not introducing yourself
  • Not preparing topics that you’re willing to bring up and talk about at the party
  • Remaining in one place (like a potted plant) and waiting for others to come to you

While it may not feel this way, small talk is important as it helps us to connect with people.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to have a good time this holiday season. Don’t dread the small talk at your upcoming holiday parties, embrace it! IAA knows that small talk is not always fun, but it can be good for the life of your business. Who knows, you may strike up a conversation with your next big client. IAA wishes you a happy holiday season.

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Avoid the ER This Holiday Season

November 26th, 2014

ER signThe holidays are here, which means it is time for fun, family and food! It can also mean an unplanned trip to the emergency room, which no one wants to take.

Food for Thought

One of the best parts of the holidays is eating your favorite holiday meal. But meals can turn disastrous when food poisoning and cooking injuries happen. Before cooking, make sure you know your food safety:

  • Wash thoroughly: The risk of bacterial contamination can be high with any raw meat (like a Thanksgiving turkey). Wash your hands thoroughly when handling uncooked meat and keep it separate from other foods.
  • Knives: One of the more common injuries that emergency physicians treat involves knives. Be careful when carving.
  • Eat safely: The holidays may seem like the best time to enjoy every delicious delicacy possible, but it is important not to overdo it. For some, it can be too much consumed too fast. Eating quickly can cause heartburn, indigestion and may create chest pain, which generally requires assessment.

Food is a great part of the holidays, but don’t let it send you to the ER!

Decorating Disasters

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in ERs nationwide in November and December 2012. While decorating for the holidays can be a fun family event, it can quickly turn into a disaster if not done carefully. Here are some tips to prevent accidents:

  • Check each set of lights: Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections.
  • Circuits: Circuits that are overloaded with lights, decorations and accessories can start a fire.
  • Decorating a Christmas tree with small children in the home? Avoid trimmings that resemble candies and food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Plants: Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, and others are commonly used as decorations during the holidays. Like many plants, they are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of the reach of children.    
  • Setting up a Christmas tree at home? Make sure to place it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents or radiators.

In 2012 the most frequently reported holiday decorating incidents seen in emergency departments involved falls, lacerations and back strains.   

Avoid a Health Crisis

It is not just accidents that can land you in the ER over the holidays; there can be other factors as well:

  • Outsmart germs: Infections spread easily where people congregate—shopping malls, holiday parties, theatres, and family dinners, to name a few. So practice good hygiene throughout the holiday season. Your best defense is to wash your hands throughout the day.
  • Pack your medication: In the hustle and bustle of packing gifts and food for holiday travels, it’s easy to leave your prescription medications behind. So double check that your medications are packed and that you have enough to make it through your travels.
  • Stressing out: Are you are super stressed before taking a holiday vacation? The increased cortisol levels induce a likelihood of infection during the holidays. Cortisol is a natural hormone that responds to stress, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to infections.
  • Take symptoms seriously: Fatal heart attacks spike during the holidays, in part because people on vacation often delay getting care. If you think you’re having a heart attack, stroke or any other serious health problem go to the ER immediately.

It is also important to remember to always check your insurance coverage before you head out of town. Emergencies such as broken bones or heart attacks are usually covered outside of your network area, but doctor’s visits may not be. Make sure to bring your health insurance card with you too!

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to avoid the ER this holiday season. IAA knows that no one wants to spend the holidays in a hospital bed. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in learning more on this topic? Click here and here.

Diabetes is on the Rise

November 19th, 2014

Diabetes devicesAccording to a recent study, diabetes is on the rise. There are 29.1 million Americans or 9.3 percent of the population with diabetes, up from 25.8 million in 2010. The prevalence of diabetes in children also shot up dramatically between 2000 and 2009. The rate of Type II diabetes in children rose more than 30% during this period.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where there is too much sugar in the blood. The body normally converts the sugar/carbohydrates we eat into energy that cells can use to function. Insulin, a hormone that is secreted from the pancreas, is the hormone responsible for converting the sugars/carbohydrates into the energy that the cells need. A diabetic is someone who has too much sugar in the blood because the conversion of the sugar/carbohydrates into energy never happens.

There are two different forms of diabetes:

  • Type I: Usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Type I does not produce insulin, without insulin the body cannot convert the sugar/carbohydrates into energy. The sugars ingested remain in the blood.
  • Type II: In this type, the body does not make enough insulin or the cells in the body “ignore” the insulin that is produced.

There are 86 million Americans with pre-diabetes, up from 79 million in 2010.

Signs and Symptoms

It is important to try and diagnose diabetes as early as possible. Signs and symptoms of the disease are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue or irritability
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Unusual thirst
  • Unusual weight loss

Uncontrolled diabetes or diabetics with blood sugar that is consistently too high can experience health issues such as:

  • Amputations
  • Blindness
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Neuropathy
  • Stroke

There are 8.1 million people who have diabetes, but have gone undiagnosed.

Diabetes and You

There are a number of ways that you can help treat and prevent diabetes:

  • Be active: Daily physical activity is important for weight control and blood sugar regulation.
  • Healthy eating: Promotes weight control. Try eating smaller portions, less fat, more fiber, and cutting down on sugary drinks.
  • Pat attention to your feet: High blood sugar can damage nerves in your feet and reduce blood flow to your feet. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can lead to serious infections.
  • Take care of your teeth: Diabetes may leave you prone to gum infections.
  • Take stress seriously: If you’re stressed it is easy to neglect your usual diabetes care routine. The hormones your body may produce in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which only makes matters worse.
  • Weight loss: Research has shown it only takes a modest amount of weight loss (five to seven percent of your total body weight) to reduce your risk for the development of diabetes. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. The reason weight is related to the development of diabetes is that weight inhibits the body’s ability to make or use insulin properly.

While diabetes may require changes to your lifestyle, it is important to make those changes part of your daily life.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take the time to learn about preventing diabetes. With diabetes on the rise in both adults and children, IAA does not want you to become part of the statistic.

Insurance Administrator of America is excited to offer “My Wellness” a program that clients receive for free, which can help improve their personal health and wellness. My Wellness offers everything from coaching to health and fitness programs. Own a Fitbit? Clients can help track their success through the Fitbit.  A great aspect of My Wellness is the way employees can use whatever parts of the program that suits them. There are plenty of wellness tools to meet the needs of every employee.  Contact your IAA Client Advocate for more information. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.  

Interested in reading more blog posts about this issue? Click here and here.