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Apps help users track the flu; Men’s Health offers strategies for dealing with baldness

Flu shots administered by the Cape May County Health Department. (Dale Gerhard/Associated Press/The Press of Atlantic City)
Does your neighbor have the flu?
WebMD cold and flu map

The warnings have already begun: The flu season is on the horizon. If you want to know how close that horizon is to your front lawn, WebMD has a map that will tell you. Its cold and flu map — available this year through WebMD’s mobile site — can tell you the prevalence of flu in your neighborhood. Using a combination of geolocation data and symptom information reported by WebMD users, the map pinpoints sickness hot spots, labelling them mild, moderate or severe, right down to the Zip code.

This map is not the only program of this sort — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers similar information on its flu tracker site, as does Google’s flu trends site. But WebMD says its information, updated weekly, is more current than that used by the CDC, which “uses physicians’ reports after patients seek treatment.” (The WebMD map is based on patient reports, which are arguably less reliable than doctor diagnoses.)

Knowing that flu is on the rise in your area may not prevent you from catching it, but the WebMD site offers tips on how to stem the spread of infection, including setting up “sanitizer stations” and using paper towels, which it says are less likely to carry germs than those made of cloth. Better yet, get a flu shot now.

Baldness: Life beyond the comb-over
Men’s Health, October edition

Despite a recent report of a major breakthrough in lab-grown human hair, a cure for baldness remains elusive. Thankfully, men have options beyond toupees and hair plugs.

The October issue of Men’s Health sorts through them, offering warnings and tips in a field with a reputation for quackery. Among them: Try to find the cause. Not all hair lossis a genetic inevitability: There are also nutritional and hormonal factors, the magazine reports, and a dermatologist can help you find the root of the problem, so to speak. The article also weighs the benefits of drugs such as Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil). They may be FDA-approved, “but both are better at maintaining what you have than regrowing what you lost,” dermatologist George Cotsarelis says in the article.

Be wary of shampoos that say your hair will look thicker: “Only one ingredient has been shown to truly preserve your pate. Ketoconazole, an antifungal used to fight dandruff, may save your mane by reducing” testosterone production in hair follicles. Of course, hair transplants are another option, but they can cost as much as $10,000, according to the article. And there’s also low-level light therapy, which is FDA-approved and can cost $3,000 but seems to work for some people.

There’s a simpler, less expensive option: acceptance. “Reframe your view,” the magazine advises, and think of balding as a (positive) distinction. Consider going all the way. According to one study cited in the article, “a guy with a shaved head is viewed as taller, more masculine and more dominant than one with a full head of hair” — so much so, people in the study imagined that a bald man “could bench press about 13 percent more weight.”

Nora Krug is a Book World editor.



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