DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 44-year-old female whose hair is falling out. I do not wash my hair every day, because it falls out after washing it. I have had thyroid tests (which were fine), went to a dermatologist who found nothing wrong and went to my ob-gyn doctor for hormone testing. The results came back slightly elevated. I was told to take zinc and my hair would grow back. Please advise me why this is happening and what I can do. – E.W.

ANSWER:
You have done everything that you can reasonably do and have seen all the doctors you could reasonably contact, but your problem remains. Although the following doesn’t apply to you, I’m including it for other readers. An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can lead to hair loss. Iron deficiency is another cause for losing hair. Rapid weight loss can do it. Medicines are another possibility. Lupus is an example of an underlying illness that promotes hair shedding.

I’m not sure what you mean by a “slightly elevated” hormone test. Was that male hormone? Women do make male hormones, and some women are quite sensitive to it. It can cause hair to fall out, just as it does in men. Medicines can counter the male hormone elevation. This is the reason why so many menopausal women experience hair thinning.

A single hair has a life span of about six years. It then enters a resting stage that lasts a few months, and then the hair falls out. About 10 percent of all hair is in the resting stage. That amounts to a normal daily loss of around 100 hairs. Physical or emotional stress forces many more hairs to enter the resting stage, with a larger number for daily hair loss. The loss occurs approximately three months after the stress. Examples of stress include illnesses, especially those with a high fever, childbirth or any number of emotional conflicts. This kind of hair loss is telogen effluvium. The hair always grows back. Can you pinpoint anything that happened to you two or three months ago that might qualify as stress? At any rate, don’t pull your hair with any kind of hairdo that causes pressure on it, like a braid or ponytail. Limit permanents. Limit the use of a blow-dryer. If things don’t turn around in another couple of months, go back to the dermatologist for another examination. If no cause is ever found, you can consider Rogaine.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How long after getting a cold, bronchitis or the flu is a person contagious? Is three days just an old wives’ tale? – E.B.

ANSWER:
A person who has a cold is at the peak of infectivity from the second to the fourth day of symptoms. Viral production is at its highest then. If the sick person coughs or sneezes into a disposable tissue, transmission is lessened. If the sick person and people around that person wash their hands frequently, transmission is greatly lessened. Cold viruses are effectively spread from hand-to-hand contact with the sick person.

Flu virus is spread from the day before symptoms occur until five to 10 days after they appear. Flu virus production peaks on the second day of the illness.

The dissemination of viral bronchitis – the most common kind of infectious bronchitis – is greatest on days two and three of the illness, but it can be transmitted for up to 10 days.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am surprised at your use of the word “stomach” for what should be “abdomen.” I wish you would make the distinction clear, because the public should be properly informed. – M.S.

ANSWER:
The stomach is the organ that receives food. The abdomen is the body region between the lowermost ribs and the pelvis. It contains all sorts of organs: liver, spleen, intestines, pancreas and stomach. I have begun to use “stomach” for “abdomen” because the general public does so.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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