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How to Cope With Divorce During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As every American is aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed practically every aspect of everyday life. The health crisis has caused families across the country to quarantine in their homes, staying inside as much as possible and cutting out contact with others. The quarantine is putting a strain on relationships of all kinds, especially marriages.

When the confinement period ends, divorce attorneys are expecting a surge in divorce filings across the country. Many couples are expected to separate because of financial stress, tension caused by forced proximity, and cases of domestic violence.

While more couples may divorce, those who were already in the process of divorcing or who were newly separated when the quarantine began face unique struggles of their own. If you're among the 827,000 divorces that happen every year and find yourself in this situation, you may be feeling more stress than you ever expected at this time. This is especially true if you still live with your spouse. Take a look at these tips to help you cope with the stress of divorce during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Avoid Arguments

Avoiding arguments with your spouse is much easier said than done, especially in uncertain times. However, it is essential for reducing your stress levels. If you still share a home with your spouse, create a plan for the two of you to get along during quarantine. This could involve dividing the physical space in your home so you reduce your interactions or scheduling times when you can air grievances and work on resolutions. If you don't live with your spouse, avoid phone calls that could lead to arguments and only check in when necessary.

Stay in Contact With Loved Ones

Communication with the ones you love is important during any times of high stress. As going through a divorce and a quarantine caused by a pandemic are two major causes of stress, talking with your loved ones is more important than ever. Remember to call or video chat with your friends and family so that you can share your feelings and frustrations. They'll be able to offer valuable support.

Spending quality time with your children is also important during this time. In general, children spend 277 days out of the year with the custodial parent in divorce cases. If you are the non-custodial parent and your already-limited time with your kids is being reduced further by the quarantine, be sure to chat with them regularly. They need your support as much as you need theirs.

If you, your spouse, and your kids are all still living together, try to be intentional about what memories you want to want to create for the little ones. They're probably going to remember this as the last time you are a family together before you become two households. Remember to place your children's well-being as a higher priority than expressing stress or anger to your spouse. Develop a plan with your spouse to work as co-parents so that you can reduce stress for everyone in your household.

Learn About Divorce

The pandemic has given many people much more free time. If you're at the beginning stages of divorce, you can use your newfound free time to become more informed about the process of divorce. Couples with children should do research on child support and child custody. You can also look more in-depth at how property division works in your state. By doing this research now, you can dispel some of the uncertainty and confusion you may feel about how your divorce will work. With a clearer idea of what to expect, you may feel less stressed about the situation.

As you're learning about divorce, it can be helpful to contact a divorce attorney. They can offer further guidance and provide resources about the process. As at least one-third of data passes through the cloud, you likely won't have to worry about getting these resources from them in person and risk breaking quarantine. They can share everything with you virtually. You may even be able to video chat with your attorney to discuss your options in the divorce process.

While you may be going through a tough and stressful time right now, remember that there are solutions. You can use these methods to cope with the stress you feel and have an easier time during the quarantine. If you're still feeling overwhelmed, remember to seek help and keep in mind that this quarantine is temporary and soon your life will be able to move forward again.

Four Savvy Tips To Find Low-Cost Airfare For Your Next Trip

Everyone loves a good deal. Almost everyone loves to travel. It only makes sense that the intersection of the two, in good travel deals, would appeal to a very wide audience.

Airlines, however, have made finding a good deal difficult. In 2008, airlines began charging fees on checked baggage. Although they suffered from bad publicity at the time, the airlines knew that if they held their ground, passengers would eventually accept the additional fees. They were right. A generation of travelers has grown up with these fees and now accept them as part of the cost of flying. These baggage fees have turned into a $5 billion profit center for the airlines.

Similarly, shortly after the terrorist attacks and wars in the Middle East caused the price of oil to spike in the early 2000s, airlines imposed “fuel surcharges” on all airline tickets. Even though the price of jet fuel has stabilized and crude oil costs less than a third of what it did at its peak in 2008, the fuel surcharges (now called carrier fees) are still assessed on every airline ticket.

These fees and surcharges make it that much more important to find the best fare possible. Here are some ways to find low-cost airplane tickets:

Be Flexible About When You Fly

Supply and demand dictate the price of airline tickets. Whether an airline sells one ticket or 140 tickets on a flight, that airplane has to fly. The airline has to make sure that flight is as profitable as possible because fuel costs, crew expenses, and taxes must be paid regardless of the number of passengers. Consequently, fares will always be lower on flights that are undersold, and higher on flights that are oversold.

Certain days of the week and times of year are less expensive to fly. These will vary by destination, again according to supply and demand. For example, flights to Chicago for Presidents Day weekend might be cheap, while flights to Miami for the same weekend in February might be very expensive.

Most people who travel for work or pleasure fly at the beginning of the week or the end of the week. As a result, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays usually see fewer travelers (and fewer airline tickets sold) than Mondays and Fridays. Airlines will often cut prices to sell tickets for flights in the middle of the week to try to fill those airplanes. Flying on a holiday, like on Presidents Day, can save money since most people prefer to fly before or after a holiday.

Unfortunately, burglars can also use the popularity of Friday through Monday travel to target your home. A home burglary occurs every 13 seconds in the United States. Many of these burglars case your home and your social media timeline to make sure you are not home when they strike. When you travel, make sure your social media is set to private or that you avoid posting about your travels until you return home.

Use Online Resources

Search sites for airline tickets provide a wealth of information about ticket pricing. Kayak, for example, shows pricing trends so you know whether you should buy or wait to buy based on whether the ticket price has increased or decreased.

Skyscanner provides information on the carbon output of flights, so you can account for the environmental impact of your flight choices in addition to the price. And Travelzoo allows you to search over a range of dates to find those hidden cheap flights on a Tuesday morning that you might otherwise miss.

Be aware, however, of scam sites that are not real travel booking sites. Scam sites collect your personal information and either use your payment card to run up bills or steal your identity to obtain new payment cards and credit accounts. Do your research on these sites and, above all else, be wary. Nearly 50 percent of consumers think that their security habits make them vulnerable to identity theft or other information frauds.

Time Your Purchase

As mentioned above, Kayak offers a feature that allows you to see the price trend for airfares. However, these price trends may be influenced by many factors, such as holidays, travel seasons, natural disasters, and oil prices. Summer, for example, has higher airfares to tourist destinations, while airfare may drop after a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Barring unexpected events, the window for finding good deals on domestic flights is usually one to three months before the flight and two to eight months for international flights. One strategy would be to begin monitoring airfares before this window begins to get an idea of the starting price. This allows you to identify a good deal as you monitor the airfares during the recommended window. But beware of waiting too long. When you see a price you like, you should snap it up because ticket prices can jump suddenly.

Check Regional Airports

Sometimes you will be able to fly into another airport close to your destination and rent a car or take a train for less than flying direct. For example, Sanford Airport, 24 miles from Orlando, is often cheaper to fly into than Orlando International Airport. Likewise, airlines often have less expensive fares to Baltimore than Washington D.C. Since Baltimore and Washington are connected by rail, flying to Baltimore is often a cheap alternative to flying directly to the nation’s capital.

Some airfare booking sites allow you to search for alternative airports. Checking the box to include regional airports in your search can save tens, and sometimes hundreds, of dollars on airline tickets.

Finding good deals on airfares is facilitated by good online tools. Moreover, knowledge about the days of the week and times of the year to travel, as well as alternative airports available for travel, can save you money the next time you fly. You might even save enough to stay an extra day at your destination.

Your Guide To Buying A Home In 2020

Many people strive to own their own home. Homeownership is a pillar in the American dream, and owning a home is often considered a sign of success and accomplishment.

There are many things that come into play when buying a home, though. If you’re looking to make 2020 the year you own your own place, here’s a quick guide to get you on the right track.

Step 1: Find Out What You Qualify For

The first thing to do in the homebuying process is to get pre-approved for a home loan. Once you do this, you’ll know what price range to look within when looking at homes.

There are multiple factors that influence what kind of home loan you can get. Lenders look at factors like your debt-to-income ratio and credit score to determine what kind of loan you qualify for and the value of that loan.

It’s important to check your credit score before applying for a mortgage. According to NerdWallet.com, the lowest credit score needed to purchase a home is 620. If you have a credit score below 620, you greatly lower your chances of getting pre-approved for a home loan.

If you need to work on your credit score, strive to get it to the national average. On average, the typical American has a FICO credit score of 700. The closer your score is to the national average, the better your chances of getting pre-approved for a loan are.

This stage of the homebuying process is extremely important. It’s here that you’ll honestly assess your financial health and how a mortgage could impact it. As of January 2019, American households owed $9.12 trillion in mortgage debt. It’s crucial to honestly assess if you can handle this kind of financial responsibility.

Step 2: Decide What Kind Of Home You Want To Buy

Once you are pre-approved for a home loan, the next thing to do is decide what kind of home you want to buy. The type of home you buy is partially dependent on what kind of loan you get. For example, there are certain requirements that must be met if a home is to be bought with an FHA loan instead of a traditional home loan.

There are multiple kinds of homes you can choose to pursue. These include traditional houses, townhouses, and condominiums. Each kind of home has its pros and cons. For example, if you buy a home, you are responsible for all its maintenance. If you buy a place that’s part of an HOA, such as a townhouse or condo, that maintenance is done for you but you pay for it through HOA fees. Although Americans have a one in five chance of purchasing a home that’s a part of an HOA, it’s truly up to you to decide what kind of home works for you.

Step 3: Hire The Right Real Estate Agent

Once you know what kind of home you’re looking for and how much you can afford, it’s time to hire a real estate agent. Real estate agents are professionals who help you find your ideal home.

There are a couple of key characteristics you should look for in a real estate agent. First, you should look for someone who knows the market inside and out. They should be able to tell you if it’s really the best time to buy a home and what the pros and cons are of buying now.

Second, a real estate agent should be a master negotiator. They will act as the bridge between you and the seller. You’ll want your bridge to be as strong as possible, like the 3D-printed bridge with the record for holding about 250 pounds, the most weight any bridge created by LulzBot 3D Printers has been able to hold. You need your real estate agent to hold firm on deals when they need to. Negotiating with sellers is a part of almost every real estate transaction, so it’s important that your real estate agent knows how to create the best deal possible for you.

Third, it’s important that your real estate agent truly looks out for you and your housing needs. They should be looking for homes that will make you happy and are within your budget. If a real estate agent only sees you as a commission check, then it’s time to move on from them.

Step 4: Search For The Right Home

Now that you have a real estate agent in your corner, it’s time to house hunt.

House hunting involves a lot of time, organization, and patience. You will most likely have to move your schedule around to fit in showings. Once you go to these showings, it’s important to get as much information about the house as possible. If you’re looking at a home that needs to be fixed up, ask if there’s any lead paint in the house. The government banned lead as a paint ingredient because of its health risks back in 1978, but most homes built before then — about 57 million of them — still contain some traces of lead paint. This is crucial information to know, as it will impact whether or not you make an offer.

If you’re looking to buy a home associated with an HOA, do some research on how current residents feel about living there. The area may be nice, but does the association do what it says it will do? How are the neighbors? Do people get loud at night?

For what it’s worth, Americans living in homeowners associations and condominiums have told pollsters they are very satisfied in their communities for the seventh time in 13 years. While this is a promising statistic, it’s important to get a full understanding of the specific place you’re looking to buy.

Step 5: Close The Deal

You found the perfect home. Now, it’s time to close.

There are many moving parts in closing on a home. These include your down payment, closing costs, the date you’re looking to move, and who takes care of repairs between the buyer and seller. It’s important that you work with your real estate agent closely during the closing process, as they’ll help you negotiate deals with the sellers.

This may seem like a stressful part of the home buying process, but it’ll all be worth it once you sign the papers and officially own your own space.

Which Foods Are Most Important To Buy Organic?

Most people know it’s a good idea to buy and eat organic foods whenever possible. Even those who aren’t particularly health-conscious are aware of this. However, it’s all-too-common for consumers to stare blankly at their kitchen’s subway tile backsplash, trying to make a shopping list filled with organic options that don’t empty their wallet. Healthy organic foods are almost always more expensive than nonorganic items — often dramatically more expensive. This can leave many people wondering if it’s even possible to be health-conscious and budget-conscious at the same time.

Fortunately, it’s absolutely possible, as long as you know which foods to buy organic and which you’re safe buying from the regular aisles.

Some foods aren’t much different, whether they’re organic or not. However, the foods on this list should always be purchased organic to avoid accidentally ingesting nasty chemicals. Knowing which foods are most important to buy organic will help you stretch your dollars as far as possible, helping you stay healthy and save money.

Coffee

Coffee is the third most sprayed crop in the world, just behind tobacco and cotton. And while neither cotton nor tobacco ever makes its way into our diets, 30% of the entire population drink coffee occasionally. For many people, two or even three cups of coffee is a part of their daily routine. So if you’re only going to buy one organic food regularly, you should make it this one.

Pesticides used on coffee plantations are supposed to be partially neutralized during the roasting process, but even worse than the effects they have on your body may be the effects they have on nature. These herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can have negative long-term effects on farmers and the environment. If more people choose organic coffee, however, this won’t have to be a problem forever.

Dairy Products

The right dairy products are an essential part of a balanced diet. They are also important in having strong teeth and a healthy smile, which 99.7 percent of adults believe is socially important. Don’t settle for the cheapest butter, cheese, or jug of milk on the shelf, though. Nonorganic dairy products usually come from cows that received antibiotics, growth hormones, and a grain-only diet. What goes into the cow eventually makes its way into the milk and unhealthy animals can only produce poor-quality products.

And as if that wasn’t enough, animals in conventional industrial farms typically aren’t treated well and don’t enjoy lives that are healthy or pleasant. Not only does this ultimately mean poorer health for those who consume the animals or their milk, but it also means the animals themselves suffer needlessly while alive. Buying high-quality organic dairy products is a better option for you and our animal neighbors.

Grapes (and Wine, Too)

There are a lot of reasons to buy organic, but when it comes to grapes and products made with grapes, the reasons become even more convincing.

Many people enjoy a glass of wine now and then, especially at celebratory events like weddings and anniversaries. Even if you don’t drink wine, you probably eat grapes at least once in a while. Unfortunately, grapes have been found to contain multiple different types of pesticide residues. To make sure that your healthy treat or relaxing drink doesn’t carry any adverse effects with it, always buy organic grapes and wines and try to wash your grapes well before eating them.

Apples

As we all know, you should visit your doctor at least once per year and you should eat an apple a day so you don’t have to see them more often. One reason apples are so famous for being healthy is that they’re a good source of fiber, which helps keep your digestive tract in shape. But if your apples aren’t organic, you may want to reconsider: most apples contain residue from at least one pesticide.

Besides washing your apples before eating (which is something you should do with just about any fresh food you buy), try to find apples that are organic. This also applies to products like apple sauce and apple juice, which can be even worse than nonorganic apples because they’re so highly concentrated.

Tomatoes

If you love topping hamburgers with tomato slices or adding grape tomatoes to salads, you’ll want to make sure the tomatoes you’re buying are organic. The USDA Pesticide Program showed that tomatoes can carry 69 different pesticides. And since you always eat them with the skin left on, you’re even more likely to get those pesky chemicals in your system. When you’re looking for tomatoes for your next barbecue, go organic.

Peppers

Peppers are fascinating fruits. Not only do they possess an unusual flavor spectrum, from mildly sweet to intensely spicy, but they’re also known for a variety of health benefits. That’s because peppers contain a chemical known as capsaicin, which may help relieve nasal congestion and even fight off cancer.

Unfortunately, nonorganic peppers are likely to contain other chemicals that aren’t so helpful. Conventional grocery store peppers can carry up to 75 different pesticide residues, including recognized carcinogens and neurotoxins. No matter what kind of budget you’re on, when you buy peppers, they should always and only be organic.

Sadly, organic hot peppers aren’t as easy to find as other organic options, especially in smaller grocery stores. If you can’t find or can’t afford hot peppers, try using onions instead. They offer a similarly spicy flavor and they’ve been shown to be fairly clean, even when they’re not organic.

Leafy Greens

Dietary experts recommend that you eat five servings of vegetables every day and for many people, those servings come from tasty salads. From spinach to kale, leafy greens are worth splurging on to get organic. This is because the leaves offer a wider area for chemicals to stick. Considering that you can’t peel leafy greens and you need a lot of them to make a satisfying salad, the result is a concentration of pesticide residue on your plate. To avoid this problem altogether, go organic and be diligent when you’re rinsing or soaking greens as you prepare them.

And there you have it: these are some of the most important foods to buy organic. Even if you’re on a budget, to enjoy the best health possible, try to always buy these foods in the organic section.

When Is the Best Time to Start Planning Your Summer Trip Abroad?

More Americans are traveling abroad–a record-breaking 80 million in 2016–and with scientifically proven health benefits, too! According to the U.S. Travel Association, women are less likely to have heart attacks if they travel a minimum of twice per year. Men who vacation more suffer a 30% fewer heart troubles. NBC News adds that traveling boosts creativity, promotes happiness and overall satisfaction levels, and keeps the symptoms of depression at bay. With blatant health benefits and good times to be had, what is holding would-be travelers back?

Planning a trip overseas may seem daunting at first, even if the benefits are obvious and plentiful. Follow the below guidelines for a simple and straightforward trip.

How Soon Do You Need To Start Planning Your Trip Abroad?

You made up your mind. You are going to go for it. Great. Now, you need to start planning, and doing it well in advance. For most abroad trips, it is wise to begin planning no later than six months before your trip. Some travelers plan nearly three years ahead of time, while others work well under pressure, putting it all together in just three months.

The specifics of when you plan your travel can depend on other factors, too. For example, if you plan to visit a given destination during its high season, it is best to solidify plans eight to 12 months prior to travel. A quick Google search is all it takes to determine the high season for your favorite destination. Weigh the pros and cons. Remember high season may entail more tourists and higher prices. It may also be the most popular time to visit for a reason. Are there any seasonal events taking place during that time? Do resorts and attractions close seasonally when they expect fewer tourists?

For example, Holland’s tulips are world-famous, thanks to their short lifespan — three to seven days — and perceived value. In the 1600s, Western Europe entered a “Tulip Frenzy” and tulips became more valuable than gold, leaving a lasting impression to this day. To see Holland’s tulips at their best, visit in mid-April. The flowers, symbolizing life, love, and immortality, can also be viewed from the end of March to the middle of May. Tourists can travel to the Garden of Europe, or the Keukenhof, to see 7 million of the world-famous tulips bloom. As previously mentioned, travelers hoping to view the tulips in mid-April should start planning a full year ahead of time, or a minimum of eight months before their departure date.

What Do You Need To Know Before Your Trip?

Before making any final plans, it is important to create an itinerary. Plan the things you would most like to see on your trip. Make a list of museums, landmarks, natural wonders, and historical sights you must see. Keep in mind that hours may be limited. For example, if you are planning a trip to Italy and want to visit the Vatican Museum, visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday only. The last entry is several hours before it closes at 4 p.m. Knowing this can help you draft a plan and fit it into the week, weeks, or extended weekend you have planned for your trip.

Similarly, get familiar with the local culture. If you only speak English and the few words and phrases you learned in a different language are not that strong, stick to particularly touristy destinations. The more tourists that come through, the more likely you are to be able to order meals and enjoy attractions even if you do not speak the native language.

On the other hand, if you would like to reconnect with your Hispanic or Latino roots and you speak decent Spanish, it is still in your best interest to do some research ahead of time. Famous museums do not display a lot of Hispanic and Latino art. These artworks compromise just 2.8% of art displayed in museums. If you are on a mission to learn more about Hispanic culture, unfortunately, the art museum may not be the optimal place to do it. Local shops and restaurants may be a good alternative.

What Do I Need To Do To Prepare For Travel?

With your timeline and itinerary down, you may be wondering what you need to personally do before booking your trip abroad. There are a few things to consider when it comes to your health and documentation. First, vaccines.gov recommends getting any vaccines four to six weeks before your trip. The flu and complications from the flu are increasingly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 710,000 people have been hospitalized after contracting the flu since 2010. Thankfully, flu shots are widely available (sometimes even at your local pharmacy) and covered by most insurance plans.

Before you join the 2.7 million passengers who fly in and out of U.S. airports every day, you’ll also need your passport. Make sure to begin the process of getting your passport several months ahead of time. To be safe, apply for your passport six to eight months before your trip. You can print forms on the Internet and mail them in order to apply for a new passport, renew an expired one, or change the name on your passport. Processing can take weeks or months, so get your necessary materials in well before your trip.

Where Should You Go?

With general know-how about passports, vaccinations, and drawing up an itinerary underway, you may be left with your final decision: where to go. The Earth is 71% water, and the rest is all land you can potentially visit–more than that statistic suggests! Italy is one of the top destinations in the world, with Rome and Florence being among the most popular cities to visit. Both boast famous architecture, and Florence adds its world-famous canals and gardens into the mix. Paris is another top destination with divine cuisine, breath-taking views, and a variety of historic sites and landmarks to visit.

Traveling abroad can be the experience of a lifetime, and it can make you considerably happier, too! Know the best time to plan your trip, draw up an itinerary, gather your necessary documents and get necessary vaccines, pick out your favorite destination and enjoy.

Your Guide To Staying Safe During Snowstorms

Maryland leads the U.S. in many ways. Baltimore is home to one of the country’s best-known universities, Johns Hopkins University, and most respected hospitals, Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is no wonder that, from 2009 through 2018, Maryland ranked among America’s top states in the quality of its public education. Maryland also holds its place in American history, hosting the presidential retreat, Camp David, and the home of The Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry.

Maryland is also extraordinary in its geographic diversity. Although the country imagines mid-Atlantic states being uniformly cold and wet, annual snowfall in Maryland varies from about ten inches along the coast to over 80 inches in the western hills. However, even the coast is not immune to huge snowstorms. In 2016, Baltimore was hit with over two feet of snow in just 24 hours.

Snowstorms can strike quickly and unexpectedly. Knowledge can make a difference between experiencing a disaster and, literally and metaphorically, weathering the storm. Here are three steps to stay safe during snowstorms.

Prepare Before the Storm

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is often the preventative measures that you take that will have the most lasting effects. In fact, forecasts of disasters often create shortages of everything from bottled water to toilet paper. If you wait to prepare until a snowstorm is in the forecast, you may be unable to find any of the supplies that you need.

The American Red Cross suggests having enough food and water on hand for two to three days. Your emergency supplies should also include any necessary medications, flashlights, batteries, tools, first aid kits, and cell phones.

Also, remember to prepare with supplies for your family, home, and pets. You should stockpile diapers and pet food in case heavy snow prevents you from leaving the house. You will also need a source of heat, in the event that you lose access to electricity, natural gas, or heating oil during a blizzard. If you have a fireplace, you may want to stock up on firewood. If you do not, a generator and a supply of gasoline may be used to power an electric space heater during a winter emergency.

Speaking of gasoline, it may be worthwhile for you to keep your car’s fuel tank close to full. If you need to be evacuated or if gasoline deliveries are delayed by winter weather, you need to have enough gasoline in your tank for emergency situations. Keep in mind that you may use more gasoline than you expect during an evacuation due to heavy traffic. Inrix, a data company, has found that the average American commuter wastes 42 hours in traffic per year. This translates to $1,400 in wasted gas. If you face packed roads during an evacuation, you can be sure that you’ll use more gas than you do in your average morning commute.

Many cities have well-developed emergency plans. It may be worthwhile researching these plans and finding out where emergency evacuation centers are planned. These emergency centers can become places where you can find warmth, food, and shelter during a severe weather event, such as a blizzard or ice storm.

If you still find yourself on the road when the snow starts, seek out a member of your local law enforcement. About 72% of all state patrol vehicles have in-car video systems that can help keep a record of any emergency you have on the road. These videos can prove very useful if you seek insurance claims for car damages once the storm has passed.

Stay Inside During the Storm

During the storm, you will likely need to stay inside where you are sheltered from cold temperatures, wind, snow, and ice. Remember that even in cold weather, everyone, including your pets, need to stay hydrated and fed.

If you are having trouble keeping warm, watch for signs of hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Disorientation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination

In children and seniors, hypothermia can start and progress quickly because their bodies have more difficulty regulating temperature. If you or a family member experiences hypothermia, it is essential to warm up because continued loss of body heat can be fatal.

Conversely, if you do have a source of warmth that burns fuel, you need to be aware of signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Specifically, if you are running a generator, burning wood, or using a propane or natural gas burner to keep warm, the combustion by-products can include carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent brain damage or even death. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headaches, loss of consciousness, confusion, difficulty breathing, and blurry vision. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure that any combustion gases are vented through a chimney, window, or doorway.

When you experience health emergencies during a major snowstorm, you may want to seek out an evacuation shelter if you cannot reach a hospital. In 2018, hundreds of volunteers and temporary employees were deployed by the National Disaster Medical System and the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to ten Health and Human Services regions across the country.

Clean Up After the Storm

After the storm has passed, some dangers will still remain. Storms can damage tree branches or weigh them down with snow and ice. Looking for broken trees and tree branches and cutting them down can reduce the risk of injury or property damage if they break unexpectedly. You may also want to inspect nearby power lines and utility poles and report any damage to your local utility company.

Similarly, ice and snow on your roof can create a risk of a cave-in depending on the volume and weight. Once the storm has ended, you can remove this snow and ice from your roof using a snow shovel, taking care to avoid slipping from the icy roof.

Likewise, sidewalks, driveways, and walkways can become slippery hazards from snow, ice, slush, and runoff. About 22% of slip and fall accidents are serious enough that the victim requires more than 31 days away from work. To reduce this danger, you can use ice-melting chemicals or a good, old fashioned shovel to remove snow and ice from pavement.

Surviving a snowstorm can be easy with a bit of planning. Prepare before the storm by stockpiling supplies and emergency items. During the storm, stay warm and make sure to vent any combustion gases. After the storm, clean up any broken or weighed-down branches and accumulated snow and ice on sidewalks and roofs.

Why Is Now A Great Time To Buy An Electric Car?

Making decisions about the goods you purchase may not be something you always consciously think about, but they are essential choices that shape the rest of your life. About 68% of poll respondents tend to make these shopping decisions while in the car, but what about purchasing decisions for the car itself? One type of automobile that’s been making headlines more and more recently is the electric car. Not only does it boast unique environmental benefits, but its quiet performance and low operating costs make it an attractive choice for many drivers.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the basics of how electric vehicles work and why now might be a better time than ever to purchase one.

How Does an Electric Vehicle Work?

Sitting down at the wheel of an electric car for the first time could be a surprising experience because in most ways it feels just like driving an ordinary vehicle. The differences between electric and fuel-driven cars lie mostly beneath the hood.

All vehicles, whether electric or otherwise, are essentially energy conversion devices; they turn potential energy, such as fuel in the tank or power in the battery, into functional, or kinetic, energy. In a conventional car, the energy is stored in chemical form: gasoline. It’s released and utilized through a chemical reaction that takes place within the engine, where hydrocarbon molecules burn with oxygen to release heat, which pushes the pistons to turn the wheels.

Electric cars also store energy chemically, but instead of burning potential energy to produce heat and push the pistons, the energy is released electrochemically. In a manner of speaking, electric cars take a more direct route to powering themselves, with fewer moving parts and no need for combustion.

Although they look and feel strikingly similar to conventional vehicles, electric cars can actually perform better than their internal-combustion counterparts. Electric vehicles can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less time than it takes conventional cars to do so. This goes back to conventional vehicles having more moving parts — specifically, the drivetrain, which channels movement from the engine to the wheels. Instead of sending converted energy directly to the wheels to make them turn, fuel-driven cars must first send that energy through the transmission. Along the way, a substantial portion of that power is lost in transit, so the actual performance power of the car is held back.

Electric cars don’t have a transmission. Instead, the electric motor is almost directly connected to the wheels, meaning that more potential power is utilized for actually moving the car. The drawback is that, for traveling longer distances, electric cars aren’t quite as fast for as long. But as the technology improves, this fact is destined to change.

In terms of horsepower, electric vehicles can still stand up to their conventional counterparts. The Shelby Mustang GT 500, a famous racing car, had 400 horsepower. A 2017 Tesla tested for its power came in at nearly 600 horsepower. While modern racing cars could easily outdo electric vehicles, the horsepower comparisons show that you won’t be losing any power if you switch to an electric vehicle.

As you can see, electric vehicles are similar to conventional ones in terms of their function and power. Now let’s discuss the reasons why now is a great time to join the trend and buy your own electric car.

Why is Now the Right Time to Buy?

The first of our reasons to buy an electric car is that the selection of electric cars available today is greater than it’s ever been. In fact, there are a total of 17 electric cars offered in the United States for the 2019 model year. And they aren’t all luxury options. The lowest price on 2019 electric vehicles is a very budget-friendly $23,900, with most others placed around the $30,000 range.

Another reason you should buy an electric car this year is that public charging stations are also more common than ever before. As of now, there are almost 21,000 operational public charging stations across America, and that number is guaranteed to go up even higher. Whether you’re traveling over the winter holidays to visit family or you’re on a summer adventure to find the best vanilla ice cream — the most popular flavor among Americans — in your state, you’re bound to find charging stations in airports, near public parking garages, and outside malls and hospitals.

Thanks in part to the prevalence of charging stations, range anxiety is practically nonexistent for new electric vehicles. It used to be that an electric car couldn’t get you very far on one charge. If you were going to be traveling very far, you’d have better been certain there would be working charging stations along the way. Now, not only are charging stations remarkably common, but the cars themselves have a much longer range than early electric cars. Unsurprisingly, Tesla leads in this area, with Models S, X, and 3 all peaking around 300 miles per charge.

Safety is another compelling reason to go electric, at least if you opt for a Tesla vehicle. Their Model 3 received a five-star safety rating from NHTSA in each category, and they’ve been famously building some of the safest cars on the road since the Model S was first produced. Considering the prevalence of automobile accidents and that they account for 52% of all personal injury lawsuits, improved safety is a pretty good reason to buy an electric car.

Buying a Used Electric Vehicle

Topping off this list of reasons to buy an electric car now is that these cars tend to be very low-priced as used vehicles. Though resale values for some of the latest long-range models are on the rise, many second-hand electric cars remain bargain-priced. Many of them go for as little as $10,000, or even less. Even though these cars don’t usually boast the same range that newer models feature, if it’s your first electric vehicle and you need the lower price, it’s a good thing to look into.

From their decreasing prices to the increase in range and charging stations, these are some of the top reasons why you should consider buying an electric car now.

Getting Your Home Real Estate Ready On A Budget

Do you want to move out of your current home? If so, you might be shocked to learn just how much it costs to sell your home. Did you know it costs, on average, $15,200 to sell a home in the United States? Understandably, you probably don’t want to spend that much money on selling your home. If so, keep reading to learn how to get your home ready for sale on a budget.

Take Time to Deep Clean Your House

When entering into a prospective new home, buyers don’t want to walk into a dirty property. This means you’ll need to begin deep cleaning your home before listing it for sale. Fortunately, you don’t need to have thousands or even hundreds of dollars to start cleaning up your house.

For an inexpensive way to make the outside of your property look better, simply hose this area of your home down to remove cobwebs and dirt. While you’re outside, take time to wash any exterior windows within arm’s reach. For homes with more than one floor, it’s best to leave high-level windows to professional cleaners.

Another problem area for many homeowners is their carpets. Even carpets that appear clean can hold up to one pound of dirt per single square yard. Most people have some carpeting in their homes, which means there might be a lot of dirt hidden right under your nose. This kind of hidden dirt and grime can sometimes even cause an unpleasant odor. Considering the importance of first impressions, smelly homes aren’t likely to bring potential buyers back.

You might think the only solution to this problem is replacing your carpet. However, you could rent a carpet steamer or shampooer as an alternative.

After spending time cleaning your carpets, it’s time to move onto your home’s walls and ceilings. While inspecting these areas of your home, you’ll probably find more than a few scuffs and scratches. You don’t need to spend money hiring professional painters or waste time mulling over which paint colors to choose. Save yourself time and money by painting all the rooms in your home one color. It might take a bit of extra time, but it will save your sanity and your wallet. Experts recommend choosing lighter colors and sticking with this choice for each room in your home.

Clear Out the Clutter

If you’re getting ready to place your home on the market, it’s time to start removing clutter. People looking for homes want to imagine their lives in their dream property. With that in mind, it’s difficult for people to imagine living a home that’s filled with your personal belongings. Instead, make sure that your home is an open space.

Don’t let the thought of uncluttering your home get you down. Why not use this time as a way to make a little extra money? Use this time to look through your home for items you can sell. If you’re not in the mood to sell what you don’t want, think about giving these items away to a local charity. Even moving your extra things to a storage unit could be helpful.

After deciding which items you’re going to sell or donate, it’s time to start packing up a little early. Experts recommend packing away all non-essential items in your home. Not only will this make moving day easier, but it also gets rid of the clutter that potential buyers don’t want to see.

Rearrange Your Furniture

While preparing to sell your home, it’s a good idea to do a bit of rearranging. By rearranging your furniture, you can give each room in your home a completely new look

Most people find it understandably difficult to move furniture by themselves. Also, moving on a budget should never mean taking on the risk of injuring yourself. To avoid injuring yourself, think about contacting a few strong friends or family members for help. By doing this, you’ll avoid spending money on professional movers.

You can also use this as a time to remove pieces of furniture that have become eyesores. Removing furniture from rooms helps makes them appear larger. This technique works especially well for smaller rooms in your home.

With that said, you might encounter furniture that you don’t know what to do with. If you want certain furniture out of your home, but don’t want it gone forever, consider a short-term storage unit lease. If it makes your home look more open to buyers, again, it’s worth leasing a storage unit for a few months.

Have Your Septic Tank Cleaned

Research shows that 25% of homes in the United States depend on a septic system for waste disposal purposes. Before placing your property up for sale, it’s important to schedule a septic system inspection. Scheduling an inspection allows a professional to inspect and drain your home’s septic tank. Having your septic tank drained by a professional helps to ensure this item continues working properly. If not drained, septic tanks can begin overflowing with waste. After this happens, household waste has nowhere else to go but above the ground. Needless to say, this won’t make a good impression on anyone thinking about purchasing your home.

Beautify Your Lawn

Before anyone enters your home, they’re going to see the outside of your property. This is the perfect time to increase your home’s curb appeal. However, you might be unwilling to pay professional landscapers to solve this problem.

To begin beautifying your yard, give your lawn a fresh mow. This shows potential buyers you care about the appearance of your yard. Also, think about making your yard look even better by planting flowers. Even a few small window boxes can make a big difference.

You don’t have to be a professional gardener to have a great looking yard. If you don’t have a green thumb, there are plenty of plants that don’t require lots of maintenance. A few low-maintenance plants include forsythias, periwinkle, and gold thread cypress.

While making your lawn look beautiful, it’s also important to focus on your home’s front porch. Before selling your home, take care of small concerns in this area. This means purchasing new house address numbers, cleaning up your mailbox and replacing any burnt-out lightbulbs.

If all of these tips make you feel a little overwhelmed, don’t panic. About 50% of homes listed in the D.C. Metro market did not sell the first time they were listed. But at the end of the day, selling your home on a budget is achievable. The key to achieving this goal is making your budget work for you by using what you have!

Parents Beware: The Link Between Prescription Drugs and Heroin

In recent years, drug abuse and addiction have skyrocketed as more and more people struggle with managing pain. Given the increased consumption of pain pills, it is important that you pay attention to the prescription, management, and use of drugs to protect your loved ones from potential abuses. Keep in mind that drug abuse does not discriminate according to age, race, or socioeconomic status. Further, drug abuse can be the result of various behaviors or experiences, as there is not one set factor that leads to misuse. In order to explore the signs of addiction, and explore solutions for drug abuse, keep reading for key information.

Know the Potential Sources for Drug Addiction and Misuse

When it comes to the abuse of drugs, the cause or catalyst of addiction can be difficult to pinpoint. If you are the parent of an addict or looking to protect your children from misusing drugs in the future, understanding the “why” is important. For example, if your child is struggling with drugs, you may be looking for a concrete answer as to what led your child to their troubling addiction. For this reason, it is important to start at the source.

First and foremost, most forms of addiction start with some type of injury. For example, if you break a bone and need a bone repair it can take anywhere from two to ten weeks to heal. During these weeks, the pain can be unbearable to handle. To help manage the condition, doctors may prescribe strong medication. Although the prescription is well-intended, the use of pain management drugs often leads to severe addiction. It is important to understand that the initial addiction may stem from legal sources but despite this, severe drug abuse can occur.

On a related note, consider that in 2015, more than 218 million people had driver’s licenses in the United States. Given the millions of people driving on the roads at any given time, the likelihood and risk of accidents are high. Much like a broken bone, a severe injury can lead to pill prescriptions. Keeping these potential exposures in mind is important as you need to be aware of the possible scenarios that could result in an opioid or drug addiction.

To protect your family members from these struggles, be sure to ask your doctors questions before any medications are prescribed. Further, consider how you will manage drugs if prescribed to you or a loved one. All in all, be aware of your surroundings and pay close attention to the use of strong medications in order to prevent addiction by all means possible.

Pill Use is Problematic, But Heroin is Worse

When addressing potential drug abuse in your family, it is important to understand that there are varying levels of drug abuse. For example, out of every five new heroin users, four of them start with the misuse of prescription pills. This information suggests that when drug addicts are prescribed pills and using them regularly, they run the risk of developing an addiction that spirals later on. Following the consistent use of one drug can lead to your body craving more intense, and addictive, drugs down the road. As a result, this can lead to a severe progression of drug abuse.

Considering this information, it is important that you manage any and all drugs prescribed to your family as exposure to pills can lead to worse outcomes. To assist with management, consider counting pills and keeping a clear record of any and all pills. Additionally, have a conversation with your loved ones about the dangers of drug use as well as a consultation with the prescribing doctor to understand the proper use and distribution of pills. Although this information can be overwhelming, taking the time to understand the misuse of drugs now can help protect your family long-term.

Pay Extra Attention To Youth

In considering the above information, it is important to note that a certain group of people are more susceptible to the dangers of addiction. Specifically, be sure to check in with your children as kids are the group most likely to face drug addiction. For example, research shows that youth commonly misuse prescription pain relievers. This can stem from experimentation, well-intentioned sharing of pills (passed around between friends and family), or intentional misuse. Considering these various opportunities, it is important that you check in with your children and look for possible signs of drug use.

Consider The Solution, Not Just The Problem

Now that you’re aware of the various dangers (and causes) associated with drug use, it is important to consider solutions. When it comes to addressing possible or known drug abuse, it is important that you research as much as possible. There are many drugs on the market and understanding the exact struggle your loved ones are facing is necessary to help them overcome drug-related issues.

First and foremost, consult a professional. If you believe your loved one is abusing medication in any form, it is important to reach out to someone familiar with the signs and treatment for drugs. Second, promote a healthy dialogue with your child or loved one. Letting your family members know that you are a safe space and anything is fair game to discuss can help open the floor for addressing scary issues. In turn, you are more likely to help your loved one overcome addiction. Lastly, pay attention to your surroundings. Drug abuse often starts in “normal” situations. Whether it be a prescription from a doctor or marijuana use with friends, people tend to use drugs in familiar circumstances. By paying attention to the signs, you are more likely to protect your family from long-term addiction.

All in all, addiction is a serious issue that requires knowledge, persistence, and committed action in order to help prevent irreversible medical issues. Consider that taking the time to explore the signs of addiction, as well as the initial causes and solutions of drug misuse, may help save your loved ones in the long run. Be sure to keep the aforementioned facts in mind, as they are sure to help you protect your family members from the dangers and destruction of drug abuse.

IMAGE: A man injects himself with heroin using a needle obtained from the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, the nation’s largest needle-exchange program, in Seattle, Washington April 30, 2015. REUTERS/David Ryder 

How To Dodge Dangerous Germs This Flu Season

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During the 2018/19 flu season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (or CDC) estimated that about 40 million Americans were infected with the flu virus. This resulted in about 500,000 hospitalizations and may have resulted in as many as 60,000 deaths. For many, dodging dangerous germs this flu season could literally save their lives.

The CDC tracks influenza cases and has calculated that flu season generally begins around October, ends around March, and peaks sometime between December and February. Now that the 2019/20 flu season has arrived, it is worthwhile to review some basic information about staying healthy. Here are five ways to dodge dangerous germs this flu season.

Understand the Flu

The first step to dodging flu germs is understanding what flu is. Flu, or more technically influenza, is a virus. Four types of flu exist: types A, B, C, and D. Only types A through C infect humans.

Flu is highly infectious. It is typically spread through coughs and sneezes. The virus can be caught by inhaling airborne virus particles or touching a surface the virus has infected. The flu virus can survive on a hard surface for up to 24 hours.

Flu is different from a cold. A cold is caused by a different virus, called rhinovirus. A cold can be annoying, but is generally not life-threatening. Typical cold symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, and cough.

Flu symptoms, by contrast, include fever, chills, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, cough, and chest congestion. Flu is particularly dangerous for infants and senior citizens who are much more susceptible to complications from fever and chest congestion.

Get Vaccinated

The CDC recommends that everyone over six months old receive the flu vaccine before the end of October. While the effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, it reduced the likelihood of flu infection by about 50% during the 2018/19 flu season.

The flu vaccine contains deactivated flu viruses. When it is introduced into your body via injection or nasal spray, your immune system builds antibodies to battle the deactivated flu viruses. When your body encounters the real virus, it already has the antibodies to fight it off, thus protecting you from being infected.

Flu can take many different forms. Type A flu strains are the most dangerous. Swine flu, Spanish flu, and other viruses that have caused massive pandemics were all Type A. Type B flu strains are less dangerous but can still cause serious illness. The flu vaccine is typically formulated to contain Type A and B viruses. This means that you could still be infected by Type C flu viruses — the weakest type — or variations on the Type A and B viruses that were not included in the vaccine.

Stay Healthy

In addition to conditioning your immune system through vaccination, there are also steps you can take to keep your immune system healthy. Generally speaking, the healthier you are, the healthier your immune system is. Steps to staying healthy include:

  • Getting enough sleep: Fatigue can deplete your immune system. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but you should try to fit in a couple of extra hours if you’re feeling under the weather. You are more likely to get sick when you are tired and run-down.
  • Eating healthy: Plant-based foods and drinks, such as fruits, vegetables, and tea, contain antioxidants. These antioxidants can reverse age-related immune deficiencies. Green tea, for example, boosts your immune system with powerful antioxidants called polyphenols while only adding about 20 to 45 milligrams of caffeine for every 8-ounce cup.
  • Exercising: Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones that may lower your immunity to infection.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking damages the lungs, making them less able to fight off viruses.

Be Hygienic

Since the flu vaccine leaves you exposed to Type C flu as well as the virus that causes colds, you will want to take precautions to reduce the risk of becoming infected. The most effective way to reduce the risk of infection is good hygiene, including:

  • Reducing contact: While shaking hands may be customary, it can be a clear path for virus transmission. If you want to avoid being perceived as rude, carry some hand sanitizer with you and sanitize your hands after contact with other people. Most importantly, do not touch your nose, mouth, or eyes with unsanitized hands.
  • Cleaning surfaces: As mentioned above, the flu virus can survive up to 24 hours on countertops, tables, door knobs, light switches, and other hard surfaces. Wiping surfaces with antimicrobial cleaners can kill the virus before it can be transmitted.
  • Washing your hands: Handwashing can prevent any flu viruses you pick up from surfaces or contact with other people from entering your body.

Remember to pass on good habits to your roommates, children, or significant other as well. If they bring the flu home from school or work, your chances of becoming infected increase significantly.

Quarantine Yourself

If you do become sick, take care of yourself. The best way to do that is to stay at home if you catch a cold. This will reduce the chances of infecting anyone else. It will also reduce the chance of catching the flu while your body is fighting the cold.

If you catch the flu, quarantine yourself. Flu is contagious both before and during the time you experience symptoms. Going to work or school while symptomatic risks passing on the virus to others. If you are around infants or senior citizens, passing on the flu could be deadly.

If you experience a high fever, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or have symptoms that do not subside after two weeks, you may need to visit a doctor. If you are over the age of 65, under the age of 12, are pregnant, live in a nursing home, or have a compromised immune system, you should visit an urgent care center at the first sign of the flu. About 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week and can diagnose a case of flu. This allows the urgent care center to monitor your condition and quarantine you from infecting others who may also be at risk.

Dodging dangerous germs is possible if you understand what flu is and how it is transmitted, get vaccinated, stay healthy, and practice good hygiene. If you do get sick, quarantining yourself can reduce the risk of passing your virus on to others.

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