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Cold and Flu Guide: The Next Generation

MDI Digital

Bug-Tracking Tools

It may not sound quite as fun as NORAD's Santa Tracker, but Google Flu Trends ( is one cool tool. These expert data crunchers use patterns of search for flu-related topics to predict the presence of actual flu symptoms with surprising precision. And at the Flu Near You website (, you can zoom in and see where flu symptoms are showing up in your own neighborhood.

BE PREPARED: Follow outbreaks online.

Another awesome new digi tool is Asthmapolis. It consists of a tiny GPS-enabled wireless sensor that attaches to an asthma inhaler. You pair it with your smartphone, and each time your child needs to use the inhaler, the data is stored in the phone app to create a detailed treatment record. But that's not all—the app also uses the data to map where and when wheezing is happening in your own community. Respiratory infections are among the most common wheezing triggers—especially if air quality (which you can see at is unhealthy and pollen counts ( are high. Keep in mind, too, that not all coughs are caused by cold or flu: 2012 has seen the worst outbreak of pertussis in 50 years. The HealthMap website ( is a great free resource for a quick view of the most important outbreaks in your zip code. Bookmark it.