Category Archives: Blogs

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

I think most parents are keen to help, push, coax and encourage their children to try their best to do well at school. Part of that is sitting with them while they do their reading, helping them with homework, doing educational activities with them and working with their teacher to encourage them to be the best that they can be.

Yesterday was parents evening. Whilst my boy is as bright as a button, he’s not always first with his hand up in class. He needs lots of encouragement to be the best that he can be. We already do lots of reading and educational activities at home with him, but we are working with his teacher to try and develop his motivation and to push him along a little bit. 

This week we’ve been trying to find new ways at home to make him feel that learning is exciting. We logged on to Education Quizzes, clicked on KS1 and got quizzing. He loves playing games, so if he feels like whatever he’s doing is part of a game then he’s all over it. 

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

The idea behind Education Quizzes is to help children to be more successful at school. By quizzing them on areas of the curriculum, the website helps learning seem more enjoyable. What’s more, it’s easy and we found it to be a great way to go over what he’s already learned at school; helping to build his confidence and show him how far he has come.

The quizzes are written by teachers and the quizzes are based on the National Curriculum. They are split into sections – KS1, KS2, 11-Plus, KS3 and GCSE quizzes and cover all the core subject areas. We had a good look at the KS1 options, as that’s where he is right now. KS1 is split up into different curriculum areas. We started working our way through the KS1 Maths quizzes. He loves maths, so this seemed a really good place to start.

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

He needed a little bit of help reading some of the questions, but he really enjoyed working through the quizzes with me. It really did help to show him how far he has come and just how much he knows. Confidence is everything for him I feel.

He has enjoyed doing the KS1 Education Quizzes so much he keeps asking for me to put them on the iPad for him. I’m very happy to oblige. I think it’s a useful website, especially for revision purposes. Our kids are tested every step of the way throughout their educational careers. Being used to taking quizzes and tests is a useful discipline. 

Subscription is monthly, costs £9.95 and it can be cancelled at any time. Education Quizzes go from KS1 right up to GCSE. So wherever you are there will be a quiz every step of the way. Looking back, I wish I’d had access to something like this when I was doing my GCSE’s. It’s an excellent revision tool.

For more information about Education Quizzes, visit their website.

Learning at home with Education Quizzes

This is a collaborative post.

Need to improve your credit score? There’s an app for that!

Being an adult means worrying about all kinds of things you never dreamed you might need to worry about. Bin night, indigestion and the state of your credit score are just part of an endless list of things to fret about. In 2016 a Which? survey of more than a thousand households found that 53%  had never checked their credit score or obtained a credit report.

Whether you’re buying a house, getting a loan, applying for a credit card, or buying a mobile phone, your credit score and credit history will be checked by the lender. Your credit score is based on your financial history, particularly around credit and debt management. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

If it’s not a good score, then you could be refused credit; however, all is not lost if you are. Once you know your credit score you can take steps to improve it. ClearScore have just launched their new coaching platform. It’s a cutting edge chatbot style programme which coaches people to better manage their finances. Using artificial intelligence and information from your credit report, the tool can help you either ‘build’, ‘shape-up’ or ‘repair’ your finances depending on your status.

I’ve never personally checked my credit score, so I was really curious what it might be. I downloaded the free ClearScore app and signed up with a few details. Within a few seconds I’d discovered my credit score. It was much better than I expected, but there was still room for improvement.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

The app includes a coaching section which gives tailored advice on how to improve your credit score. If you need to improve your score, spending an hour going through the coaching section and acting on the advice the chatbot gives you could really pay dividends. 

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

I found the app and the coaching section really easy to use. I liked that the information was presented to me in small text message sized chunks. I often find little bites of information at a time are easier for my brain to digest than pages and pages of text. I had a notepad next to me to jot down some notes and action points, but you can always go back if you need to.

How to improve your credit score - there's an app for that!

In the coaching section you can find out more about certain aspects of your credit score. It was all easy to understand and there were lots of suggestions on how to improve your score. It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but chipping away at it sooner rather than later is always a good start. You can find more advice from ClearScore on how to improve your credit score here.

I’ve got a few action points to improve on, and now I’ve got the ClearScore app I can keep track of my score and take action if my score dips any further. Hopefully it can only improve from now on. 

This is a collaborative post.

Pets: Ensuring your dog gets the right food all year round

When it comes to your canine companion, you need to provide them with food that’s not only nutritionally beneficial, but also makes them as happy as they make you. Dog owners usually take a considerable amount of time deciding what food is right for their pet, but knowing which foods are best can usually be a struggle.

In total, Britain spent £899 million on dry and wet dog food in 2015 alone. Depending on the time of year and whether temperatures are mild or freezing, it can be difficult to determine whether your dog should be eating dry or wet food. If you’re walking your dog in colder temperatures, it’s vital that your dog receives a sufficient amount of nutrients in order to stay fit and healthy. In the summer, dogs can rely on a much leaner diet, so they don’t need the fatty content provided by wet foods.

Provided by natural dog food retailer Feedem, this guide will help you figure out how to ensure that your dog gets the right food and nutrients whatever the weather.

Check your dog’s fitness

We’ve all been there, you’re sitting in the living room with the dog, and sometimes, they get a bit of what you’re eating as a treat. Although you may not notice it, because you see them every day, this can be a significant contributor to weight gain. This will have an impact on your dog during their walks, as it might result in sluggishness and will affect how long they can walk for.

If you begin to notice this yourself, then change their food from a wet to dry serving, as dry foods typically have a lower fat content. As well as this, fewer dog treats are an easy way of regulating your dog’s weight; think of it like this, would you keep giving yourself a treat if you stopped exercising?

Try to remember that whatever changes you make to your dog’s diet, it still needs to be tasty for your pooch. For example, if your dog is content with wet food and they need a fattier meal to build a strong winter coat, then keep a small amount of dry food in their diet so that you’re changing what they’re eating, but it’s less of a shock to them when they’re eating new foods.

How often is your dog outside?

If your dog isn’t inclined to go on many walks, and likes to sit snug beside you rather than go outside, make sure that they’re receiving a low-fat dry food diet; it seems obvious, but when they’re moving around less, they aren’t going to burn off much of the food they eat. However, if your dog works outside all day, or likes to run around a field for hours during their walk, then try to give them 10 to 90% more fatty-wet foods depending on the dog’s circumstances.

 If you’re unsure, then consider these key points as a guide:

  • Size: Depending on your dog’s size and build, you’re going to have to accommodate this through the foods that they eat. Subcutaneous fat keeps your dog warm and aids their fur coat, so it’s important their body fat remains constant and doesn’t deplete through the year.
  • Fitness: Dog foods contain a range of vitamins and minerals to uphold the general health of your dog. Look for ‘complete foods’ for dogs that are struggling with either their health or ability to complete their routine walk, these foods will help them reach their peak fitness again.
  • Fur density: If your dog carries a stronger and thicker fur, then they don’t need foods that are high in fat. This is because dogs with thicker coats don’t expend as many calories as those with thinner fur. Dogs use a significant amount of calories by shivering to keep them warm. For smaller dogs with thinner furs, make sure they’re given slightly more food than they would normally get during the winter. This will help them stay warm.

Each dog to their own

Complete foods are the best way of making sure that your pet will receive a nutritionally balanced meal that contains fats, proteins, and vitamins – everything your dog needs to stay healthy with every portion.

These types of foods are usually the best option for your dog as they are balanced, so they won’t receive more than they need of one food type, such as fat. However, we all know that dogs can be just as picky as us, so make sure it’s a gradual change if you’ve now spotted something wrong in their current diet. If you need some advice, then consider for a moment that in 2015 dry food outsold wet food by £241 million, so if you’re stuck for ideas then choose this option.  

We recommend that your dog sticks to this diet unless your dog is exposed to temperatures that are freezing on a regular basis. In this instance, try to supply them with a wetter food that contains a type of gravy. These foods will provide your dog with a sufficient intake of calories when they need it the most. Remember, try not to provide treats alongside this diet, or they’ll need to go back to the dry foods after gaining too much weight! We all know it’s harder to lose weight than it is to gain…

dog food

Sources:

http://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2014/october/how-much-should-you-feed-your-dog-fall-and-winter-32085

http://www.1800petmeds.com/education/winter-feeding-tips-dogs-33.htm

http://www.pfma.org.uk/types-of-dog-food/

http://www.pfma.org.uk/market-data

http://www.pfma.org.uk/using-the-right-ingredients

This is a guest post.

Have you ever considered leasing a family car?

If there is one thing any parent can do without, it’s the added pressure of finding, funding, and maintaining a new family car whilst juggling the myriad other responsibilities of parenthood.

But the car has become an indispensible part of family lifestyles, and for parents with a young family to take care of it can make a major difference to the day-to-day routine. Having the freedom to do the weekly shop, pick the kids up from the school, and take weekend trips away without a second thought spent on the practicalities of getting around is a luxury few of us would like to live without.

But not all luxuries are easy to afford, and getting hold of a new family car, whether it’s used or new and paid for outright or on finance, can be difficult both practically and financially.

Used cars are often more affordable, but it’s hard to get a clear picture of their history and the chances of something going wrong are significantly increased. What’s more, there’s usually no warranty left in place so anything that does go wrong is left to you to sort out.

New cars, although they’re far less likely to throw up any problems themselves, are notoriously expensive to get hold of and lose their value quickly. Most people will find that buying a new family car requires a personal loan from a bank, building society, or even a family member.

Cars bought on finance deals eliminate the risks associated with picking up a used car, but they do bring along a whole range of their own problems. The financial implications of purchasing via a finance deal can be great and far-reaching. Most deals will require you to pay around 10% of the car’s value as a deposit as well as ongoing monthly sums, and at the end of the deal you’ll be left with a car worth much less than you’ve paid for it.

Leasing is a middle-of-the-road option that gives parents the best of both worlds; you can drive a brand new car with full manufacturer’s warranty, whilst paying an affordable amount of money each month and only having to pay a few months’ rent upfront as a deposit. At the end of the leasing contract, you simply hand back the keys. At this point, you’ll be a leasing convert and ready to choose the next brand new car for you and your family.

Have you ever thought of leasing the family car?

What else is great about leasing?

It’s reliable: Leased cars are brand new, unused, and with warranties still in place. Nothing is likely to go wrong, but if anything does then it’s not your responsibility to get it fixed. That means no surprise costs and no hassle.

It’s practical: Unlike buying and hire purchase finance deals, leasing is incredibly straightforward. You pay a small deposit, pick up the keys, and pay your monthly installments. At the end of the contract, you hand back the keys and take back the deposit before choosing whether another lease is for you. Additionally, day-to-day practicalities are even easier with all of the smart new functions available in brand new vehicles. Think litres of storage space and fold-away seats perfect for daytrips to the beach.

It’s safe: Every new generation of cars on the road is safer than the last, and with your little ones in tow there’s nothing more important than making sure they’re as well looked-after as possible. When choosing a family car to lease, you’ll get to pick from the latest models with the most advanced safety features on the road.

It’s affordable: We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again. For parents with a limited amount of disposable income, leasing can be surprisingly easy to manage. A short-term agreement with no long-term financial implications means you’re able to drive the best of what’s available without making a loss when you decide to move on to a new family car. There’s no major upfront cost, no loans or credit agreements, and nothing to lose at the end.

If, after reading this you feel a car lease deal maybe a feasible option, then check out Vantage Car Leasing. They offer an array of car leasing options that you may find are suitable for most family budgets.

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New Scheme Aims to Make Birth Negligence Claims Easier & Faster

After more than a billion pounds in birth negligence claims was paid out by the NHS over the past year, the government is finally taking action to safeguard families and the health service.

The UK government has launched a new scheme to support families around the UK that make birth negligence claims. It aims to drastically slash the average time it takes for a case to be resolved and improve maternity services.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says waiting over a decade from the time of a birth injury to receiving compensation is unacceptable and places additional burdens and hardships on families struggling to cope after such a devastating tragedy. Although his aims are welcome, his comments are puzzling. Where cases are not defended, it has long been the case that families do not have to wait that long and can obtain early part-payments of damages.

The new Rapid Resolution and Redress programme has been drawn up at a time when over 500 incidents relating to birth negligence claims occur at NHS hospitals every year, sometimes tragically resulting in severe injuries to a newborn and even fatalities.

Speedier Birth Negligence Claims

The new birth injury claims scheme is currently in a consultation phase and is based on a similar one in operation in Sweden, where the number of birth injuries has plummeted to around half of what it was since the plan was brought in seven years ago.

“By learning from proven methods in countries like Sweden, we hope to achieve a dramatic reduction in the number of tragedies where babies are lost or injured for life,” said Hunt. He says that even though maternity staff at the NHS do a “fantastic job under huge pressure”, problems with deliveries, including stillbirths, are among the highest in Europe. That, he says, has to change — as does what he points to a “culture of blame” when things go wrong.

Again, his comments, whilst welcome, are strange. The NHS Litigation Authority, which is involved in all existing claims against hospitals, should have all the information needed to learn from past mistakes. It is unclear why a new scheme is needed for lessons to be learned from past mistakes, but anything that helps to reduce injuries is, however, welcome.

So how will the new British scheme work once it is introduced? We do not yet know, but the health minister is hoping it will act as a kind of fast-track compensation payout system in dealing with birth injury claims.

Brain damage is unfortunately one of the most common forms of birth negligence at the NHS, as well as cerebral palsy. Others can include missed tears and maternal deaths, which, although rare, are often avoidable.

Such is the scale of the problem that from 2015 to 2016, the health service has paid out £1.2 billion to settle cases, according to official figures.

A Better Chance for Everyone

Among the main features of the new plan is a system whereby families could opt for what the government calls an “alternative system of compensation”. This would involve families receiving financial compensation over a period of time, as well as support that would include counselling. It offers families a way of getting redress for what has happened.

All this is not to say that the government wants to stop people from taking birth injury claims to court. Indeed, in situations where a medical procedure or care has not been up to standard and has caused injury or worse, families are still perfectly entitled to bring claims, particularly where doing so will produce a better outcome.

The government has also launched a new public health campaign to draw attention to childbirth issues and what women can do to make sure themselves and their babies are as healthy as possible. Called Our Chance for a Safer Pregnancy, it aims to help lower mortality rates and ensure more births than ever are safe and trouble-free. It will hopefully result in a lowering of birth injury rates, while giving quick compensation access to those who are sadly affected.

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Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Kitchen towel is a real household essential. It’s great for mopping up spills and for cleaning up after children and pets. It’s so essential, a roll of kitchen towel is one of the first things we pack when we go on a self-catering holiday. Here are my five ways we use kitchen towel to keep our house clean – it’s so versatile we wouldn’t be without it!

Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Damp dusting – I’m allergic to dust, so when I do dust my house I have to damp dust. To me damp dusting makes more sense than just moving the dust around. To damp dust, just dampen your kitchen towel and wipe over the dusty areas, then you just dispose of the dusty kitchen towel. No dust has been flicked up around the house, I’m not sneezing and everything looks clean and tidy.

When I’m cleaning windows – Kitchen towel is great to use for cleaning your windows with. Just damp them and use with some window cleaning spray – there will be no streaks just shine.

Fat fighters – Tipping cooking fat and grease down the sink is a big no-no. If your sink or drains get blocked it can cause all kinds of problems. To combat this problem, I put a couple of sheets of Plenty Kitchen Towel in my pan (once it’s cooled obviously) and leave it for a few hours, the towel soaks up the fat. I then just put the soaked kitchen towels in the bin. No fuss, no mess, no blocked drains.

Condensation killer – If your windows suffer with condensation in the winter, one old fashioned but excellent tip is to dab of washing up liquid onto your kitchen towel, wipe it all over your dry window and that will help to prevent condensation build up. 

Bye bye cobwebs – If you’ve got high ceilings or hard to reach places to dust, slightly dampen a piece of kitchen towel, put it on the end of a sweeping brush and carefully dust the cobwebs off your ceiling or hard to reach corners. The damp towel will stop the dust from floating down onto your face and your corners will be cobweb free. Result! 

Five ways kitchen towel can keep your house clean!

Over on Facebook, Plenty and their hero Juan Sheet have got some great giveaways running for the first 12 days of December. Just answer the simple riddles each day to be in with a chance to win one of the Plenty #12DaysOfPlenty prizes. To enter, hop on over to the Juan Sheet Facebook page.

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Safe Journey – Top Tips for Winter Driving

As Christmas approaches many people are busy making plans to visit friends and relatives up and down the country. If you’ve got a family in tow, it’s often easier to pack your car up rather than travel by train or coach with them, but winter driving has its own hazards. Read on for some top tips for safe winter driving.

In the UK we are largely unused to driving in icy, snowy conditions, so when the winter weather is at its worst many drivers struggle. On family car journeys I am always chief navigator and in charge of the map reading and snacks. Preparation is key when you’re going on a long journey in winter. 

Winter Driving Packing Essentials

  • Drinks – hot and cold
  • Snacks
  • Blankets
  • A snow shovel
  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • A spare battery pack for your phone.

I would also suggest taking a map with you as well as your sat nav. I’ve lost count of the number of times our sat nav has failed us and I’ve had to guide us to our destination with a good old fashioned map.

Winter Driving in snow and ice

In Scandinavia, people learning to drive spend time learning to drive safely in the extreme winter weather they have over there. In the UK this is not often the case, your instructor may touch upon how to deal with different driving conditions, but the only thing we’re really prepared for is rain.

  • When driving in icy conditions, avoid braking suddenly, this may cause you to skid and lose control.
  • Drive slower than normal to reduce your chances of skidding and having an accident.
  • Make sure you approach bends and corners with extra care, always look ahead and anticipate the conditions ahead.
  • If you lose control, don’t panic! Take your foot off the accelerator, and position you wheels in the direction you want to go in.

For more advice and information on driving safely in the winter, you can download this useful ebook from Chill Insurance, providers of some of the cheapest car insurance available in the UK.

Safe Journey - Top Tips for Winter Driving

What are your top tips for winter driving? 

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Where can you learn to play Ice Hockey in Manchester?

I’ve been an ice hockey fan since the mid 90’s and I’ve loved going to watch my local team, Manchester Storm play ever since. Last Christmas we took the small boy along to watch Manchester Storm play their arch rivals, The Sheffield Steelers. Now he is six, we’re starting to think about cultivating a bit of on ice confidence in him. Starting off with learning to skate, and maybe eventually picking up a stick and wanting to learn to play Ice Hockey for himself.

The overprotective mother in me does have a slight moment of panic at the thought of him wanting to learn to play Ice Hockey. Its a rough tough sport and not for the faint-hearted. But I’ve been around ice hockey long enough to know that the players are really well protected and serious accidents are thankfully very rare.

Just down the road from us, at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham, they offer skating lessons as well as a whole range of skating sessions. We think this would be a good place to start him off, especially as he’s familiar with the rink from when we go and watch Manchester Storm games. It’s a friendly rink with a great family friendly atmosphere and lots of community spirit.

Sport: Where to learn to play Ice Hockey in Manchester

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and in order to learn how to play ice hockey, you need to be able to skate at level 5 or above. The course at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham is approved by the English Ice Hockey Association. There is a lot of equipment and kit involved in ice hockey, but hey will be able to provide you with some equipment such as a helmet / neck guard and a stick to start off with, but you should have your own skates at least.

In the UK there are some specialist companies like Proline Skates who stock specialist ice hockey skates, protective wear and equipment, as well as lots of other general and specialist skates and skating equipment.

Their ice hockey lessons at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Altrincham are currently £10 per session, and they will teach you more advanced skating skills, balance control, puck control and shooting. 

Ice hockey is a growing sport in the UK. There is a lot of love for the game and the grassroots support for ice hockey is huge. It’s a little bit niche, but I think that’s probably why it’s so well loved. I would love it if my boy would like to get involved too.

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Christmas Gifts: Three of the best Baby Walkers for all budgets

If you’ve got a baby in the house getting ready to toddle, a baby walker can be a great way to get them moving with confidence. When the boy was toddling he was given a baby walker which really got him woddling along nicely, and the look on his face as he learned to get around was priceless.

I’ve picked out three of my favourite baby walkers to suit budgets big and small from Online4Baby. They are one the UK’s leading suppliers of baby and toddler products, with a wide-ranging catalogue from buggies to baby monitors and of course baby walkers and ride ons.

Top of the range is the 4Baby Deluxe Car Baby Walker & Rocker. This eye catching racing car style baby walker features adjustable height positions and a removable musical play tray.  Available in red or blue this is just the thing to get those little legs moving!

Christmas Gifts: Three of the best Baby Walkers for all budgets

The 4Baby Deluxe Car Baby Walker & Rocker is £89.95 from Online4Baby.

A great mid-range baby walker is this My Child Walk n Rock Musical Baby Walker & Rocker, priced at just £42.95. This height adjustable Walk n Rock includes an electronic interactive play tray with lights, sounds and music to keep baby entertained. 

Christmas Gifts: Three of the best Baby Walkers for all budgets

I think baby walkers like this are great. They encourage little ones to get moving and are also little activity centres. We had one very similar to this and he loved being in it.

My final pick is the Chicco Baby Steps 2 in 1 Activity Walker, available from Online4Baby at a bargain £17.95. The walker is designed to help your baby safely stand up and take their first steps to independence. When your little one starts walking, it plays a tune, when they stop, so does the music which can really help to encourage your little one to take a few extra steps. 

Christmas Gifts: Three of the best Baby Walkers for all budgets

There are some really great baby walkers on the market these days, all designed to be lots of fun to use and to get your little nipper zooming about with confidence. These three picks from the range of baby walkers and ride ons from Online4Baby would make an excellent Christmas gift for your woddling toddler.

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Health: 3 reasons you might be losing your hair

If you’re losing your hair, you might feel like you’re losing part of your identity – and this can be especially difficult to deal with if you’re a woman. If your locks are thinning and this is having an impact on your confidence and self-esteem, it’s important to understand what’s causing this process. You may find there are treatments available that can help you slow or even reverse your hair loss. Here, we take a look at three reasons why you might be losing your tresses.

Your genes

In men, male-pattern baldness is by far the most common cause of hair loss, affecting approximately half of all men by the time they reach 50, often starting much earlier. A hereditary condition, it’s thought to be a result of over-sensitive follicles and it’s generally characterised by a receding hairline and thinning on the crown. There are treatments available, including finasteride tablets and a lotion called minoxidil. You can find out more about how these hair loss treatments work online or by speaking to your doctor.

Less is known about female-pattern baldness – which tends to involve thinning of hair on top of the head – but this may also have a genetic trigger. The condition tends to be more common in postmenopausal women and this could be because of a drop in female hormone levels. Finasteride isn’t a treatment option for women, but minoxidil is. Up to a quarter of women with female-pattern baldness who use this lotion experience hair regrowth. If you think you might benefit from it, it’s worth getting advice from a pharmacist or your GP.

Your immune system

If you have small patches of hair loss on your scalp, your immune system could be to blame. The condition alopecia areata is caused by a problem with your body’s natural defence system that causes it to attack your own tissue. Usually, hair grows back within a few months, but treatments are available if this doesn’t happen. Steroids can be used in the form of injections, creams, ointments and gels, and in some cases immunotherapy is an option.

losing your hair through Stress

If you’ve experienced major physical or emotional strain recently, there’s a chance this has triggered your hair to thin. A condition called telogen effluvium, which involves a widespread thinning of the hair across the scalp, can be brought on by intense physical trauma – such as childbirth, serious illness or a surgery. It can also be triggered by extreme psychological stress, hormonal changes or alterations to your diet. The good news is, in most cases of telogen effluvium, hair stops falling out and begins to regrow within six months, meaning there’s no need for treatment.

If you’re still not sure what’s causing your hair to thin, or you think you know but you’d like further advice on how to tackle the issue, it’s a good idea to contact a medical professional.

Nanogen - losing your hair

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