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Consumer Daily Reports

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Consumer News: Does your pet have springtime allergies?

Tips for reducing your pet's exposure to seasonal allergens

By Sarah D. Young of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoJust like humans, pets can suffer from seasonal allergies. But while pollen and other airborne environmental allergens might leave you sniffling and sneezing, a pet who suffers from allergies may show other symptoms.

Animals are susceptible to the same airborne allergens -- pollen, trees, grasses, mold and insects -- that we are, Dr. Heather Peikes, a specialist in pet dermatology, told VetStreet.com.

Knowing the signsof seasonal allergiesis the first step toward alleviating your pet's uncomfortablesymptoms. So, how can you tell if your pet is suffering from seasonal allergies? Skinirritation and itchiness can be a major tip-off, experts say.

Signs of allergies

Dog and cat allergies often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation -- a condition called allergic dermatitis. If you notice your pet scratching excessively or biting or chewing a certain area of their body, he or she may have springtime allergies.

Other symptoms to watch for include itchy and inflamed ears, head shaking, and generalized redness (puffy red eyes, red oral tissue, a red chin, red paws). Your four-legged allergy sufferer might also develop open sores, scabbing, and areas of hair loss as a result of all that scratching.

Some pets get to the point where theyre so uncomfortable that they cant play or rest properly, Peikes said.

Treating the condition

While severe reactions -- such as behavioral changes or afoul odor inside the ears, on the lips, or in between folds of the skin --may warrant a visit to the veterinarian, there are things pet owners can doto treat allergy symptoms and ease their pets itchiness.

Here are a few ways to manage your pets environmental sensitivities at home:

  • Regular baths. Bathe your pet using a mild, plain shampoo or product like oatmeal colloid to wash away the allergens on his or her coat and skin.
  • Foot soaks. Wipe down your pets paws after they come in from being outside. Foot soaks can help reduce allergen exposure and itching and keep your pet from tracking allergens into the house.
  • Take off your shoes. To limit the amount of airborne particles that make it into your home, take off your own shoes after you come in.
  • Keep allergens out. Keep your home as allergen-free as possible for your furry companion by keeping the windows closed, vacuuming, and cleaning floors and pet bedding frequently.
  • Consult a vet. Your vet may recommend a treatment involving the use of antihistamines or omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Some allergic pets may benefit from allergy shots or topical or oral steroids.


Consumer News: Venmo, other p2p systems eclipsing banks, which are planning to fight back

Big banks are launching Zelle, a Venmo-like service, later this year

By James R. Hood of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoIf you're a person of a certain age thenyou may not be familiar with Venmo, but chances are your younger friends and family members know it well. It's perhaps the most popular of the peer-to-peer payment systems that are replacing bank transfers, mailed checks, and even cash.

Big banks have long had their own systems, but they tend to be clunky if you're sending money to an account at a different bank. And online giants like Google, Facebook, and PayPal all have their own systems. (PayPal owns Venmo, by the way). But for the most part, their transfers are not as intuitive and hassle-free as Venmo's, which works as a simpleapp on iPhones and Androids or on any other platform you can think of.

Millennials tend to be the biggest users of Venmo, often using it to split bar tabs and pizza bills while their parents perhaps are still using bank transfers to make their child's rent payment.

All of that may start to change later this year as a coalition of big banks introduce Zelle, a p2p payment system that can transfer money from your account to anyone who has a debit card.

We are always looking for opportunities to make it easier for our customers to bank with us, said Diane Morais, CEO and president, Ally Bank, one of the first banks to commit to Zelle. Transferring money via payment services is among the digital banking activities growing in popularity with consumers.

A larger pond

You might think Zelle's entry would be bad news for existing services, but a recent Los Angeles Times report finds them feeling confident that the banks' big marketing push will attract more consumers to app-based payments, growing the market for everyone.

We dont see it as a winner-take-all scenario, Josh Criscoe, a spokesman for Venmo owner PayPal, told the Times. We welcome any effort to move folks to more digital payments and move toward the smartphone as the central point of financial life. The common enemy is cash.

One competitive advantage Venmo brings to the fray is its low and sometimes nonexistent fees. Transfers between friends through a major debit card or checking account are free. Credit card transfers incur a 3% fee.

Banks are generally not shy about piling on fees, charges, and penalties, but they may have to restrain themselves if they want Zelle to be successful.

Besides its no-fee approach, Venmo, despite a nearly nonexistent advertising budget, has managed to join the exclusive club of companies whose names become verbs. Drop by any coastal city coffee shop and you'll hear phrases like, "OK, your share is $8.35. You wanna' Venmo that to me?"

While the big banks will no doubt spend millions on advertising, it may be a while before you hear anyone say, "Could you Zelle me $20 until Friday?"


Consumer News: Why your salt intake may keep you running to the bathroom at night

A study shows that cutting back on salt can help relieve nocturia symptoms

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoThere are plenty of reasons why you may not be getting a good nights sleep, but perhaps one of the most common is the excessive need to go to the bathroom. The condition, called nocturia, occurs when an excess amount of urine is produced during the night. It primarily affects people over the age of 60, but it can develop at earlier ages for some people.

The causes of nocturia have generally been chalked up to anxiety, infections, and other medical issues, such as overactive bladder syndrome and enlargement of the prostate, but researchers now say that consuming excess salt could be the culprit.

Night- time urination is a real problem for many people, especially as they get older. This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people," said Dr. Matsuo Tomohiro of Nagasaki University.

The salt factor

Tomohiro and his fellow researchers conducted a study involving 321 Japanese men and women who had high salt intake and trouble sleeping due to nighttime urination. Over the course of 12 weeks, the researchers provided participants with guidance and support on how to lower their salt consumption.

Over the study period, 223 participants were able to lower their salt intake by 2.7 grams per day. For this group, nighttime frequency of urination dropped from 2.3 times per night to 1.4 times per night. In contrast, 98 participants increased their salt intake by an average of 1.4 grams per day, whichincreased the frequency of nighttime urination from 2.3 times per night to 2.7 times per night.

The findings indicate that salt intake does indeed factor into nocturia symptoms. The researchers believe that additionalstudies using more participants should corroborate their findings, and that future research will ultimatelyhelp consumers.

"This is an important aspect of how patients potentially can help themselves to reduce the impact of frequent urination. Research generally focuses on reducing the amount of water a patient drinks, and the salt intake is generally not considered. Here we have a useful study showing how we need to consider all influences to get the best chance of improving the symptom, said Dr. Marcus Drake.


Consumer News: Preventing poisonings at home: ways to keep kids safe

Tips for keeping little ones safe around laundry pods, prescription drugs, and other toxic household substances

By Sarah D. Young of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoCuriosity can lead to the discovery of new concepts and skills, but it can also land kids in dangerous situations. When kids deem certain household items worthy of a taste test, a visit to the emergency room may follow.

Young children can be tempted to taste fun-looking household items such as laundry pods, energy drinks, and candy-sized prescription pills. But ingesting these items can trigger a range of reactions, including breathing problems, accelerated heart rate, blocked intestines, and affected mental states.

To keepchildrenout of harm's way in their home environment, experts are stressing the importance of taking poison prevention measures around the house.

Most poisonings happen at home

Approximately half of the 2 million poisonings reported each year to poison centers across the nation involve children under 6 years old. The vast majority (80%) of poison control calls originate at home, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

"As we get into spring and summer months, and children are spending more time at home despite how much supervision we give them, children still are very capable at finding substances and possibly causing a poisoning emergency, says Dr. Cyrus Rangan, a pediatric medical toxicologist at the Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA).

Ways to keep kids safe

Rangan offers these tips for preventing kids from ingesting toxic household substances or unsecured medications.

  • Keep meds out of sight. Some determined kids will break into tamper-resistant bottles if given enough time, says Dr. Rangan. To mitigate this risk, he recommends keeping prescription medications high and locked away, out of sight, out of mind. Additionally, he recommends not transferring pills to other containers, such as day-of-the-week pill organizers.
  • Dont call it candy. These days, pills and vitamins come sugarcoated and even in gummy form. But persuading kids to take a multivitamin by pretending its candy can be a confusing trick. Medicine is medicine, candy is candy, says Rangan, who recommends keeping the two separate in a childs home and in their mind.
  • Watch out for new poisons. Newly popular products -- such as laundry/dishwasher detergent pods, e-cigarettes, and energy drinks -- can pose a poison risk to kids. All of these products contain highly concentrated chemicals (detergent, nicotine, caffeine), and can be dangerous for young children, who might be tempted to taste these scented/flavored products.
  • Store cleaning products out of reach. To kids, bleach looks like water and cleaning powders look like cupcake sprinkles. Kids can also mistake the brownish cleaning liquid in a bottle in your garage for apple juice, says Rangan.Because they look the same and are sometimes in bottles that are very, very similar, a young child tends not be able to tell the difference."
  • Call in an emergency.If your child does come in contact with a toxic substance, call 911 if the child stops breathing or responding. Otherwise, Rangan says to call the national 24-hour Poison Control Hotline, 1-800-222-1222.


Consumer News: FCC alerts consumers to the "Can you hear me?" scam

Consumers targeted by the scam should immediately hang up and report the call

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoBack in January, we reported that scammers were trying to bring back the Can you hear me now? scam. In the newest iteration, a robocaller dials your number and if you answer, a person on the other end opens with the question Can you hear me?

Unsuspecting consumers who answer yes to the question have their voice recorded by the scammers, who will splice the audio onto other questions and sign themup for services that can show up on theirphone bill.

The ploy has once again become so popular that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has sent out an alert to consumers. The agency has received many complaints from consumers saying that they were duped by supposed representatives of important organizations like mortgage lenders and utility companies.

What to do

The FCC has stated that consumers who receive a call opening with this question should immediately hang up the phone and report it to the Better Business Bureaus Scam Tracker and the FCC Consumer Help Center. Those who have previously been targeted by the scam should be sure to check their bank, credit card lender, and telephone company statements for any unauthorized charges.

The FCC is also providing the following tips to help protect against the scam:

  • Dont answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
  • If you answer and the caller asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents.
  • If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC so that the agency can help identify and take appropriate action to help other consumers.
  • Ask you phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service. If it doesnt, encourage itto offer one. Consumers can also visit the FCCs website for information and resources on currently available robocall blocking tools.
  • Consider registering all of your phone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry.

For more information, consumers can visit the FCCs site here.


Consumer News: Harbor Freight settles class action over misleading sales tactics

The suit alleged that the company marked items on sale even though they were never priced higher

By Christopher Maynard of ConsumerAffairs
March 27, 2017

PhotoA class action suit filed against Harbor Freight Tools, a discount tool chain operating 750 U.S. locations, could refund shoppers up to 30% on purchases made within a 5-6-year period. The company recently settled thesuit, which alleged that it used misleading sales practices.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Beck stated that the company advertised certain products at sale and compare at prices even though those items werent originally sold at a higher price to begin with. He stated that the sales practice effectively created the illusion of a discount to draw in customers. However, federal regulations dictate that an item can only be marked on sale if it was sold at a higher original price for 28 of the preceding 90 days.

Getting a refund

If the settlement is approved, customers who bought products from Harbor Freight between April 8, 2011 and December 15, 2016 could receive a partial refund. However, just how big of a refund one receives depends on certain criteria:

  • Customers who saved itemized receipts of their purchase that display a You Saved amount will receive 20% off the amount they paid in cash or 30% as a Harbor Freight gift card.
  • Customers who have a credit or debit card statement that proves they shopped at Harbor Freight during the covered period may receive 10% off the amount they paid in cash or 12% as a Harbor Freight gift card.
  • Customers who have no documentation of a purchase but claim they bought items during the covered period may receive a $10 Harbor Freight gift card. However, those who make false claims and are found out will be subject to perjury charges and could face stiff penalties.

Consumers who wish to receive a payment must complete a claim form and either mail it or submit it online no later than August 7, 2017.


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