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by Abigail Van Buren

Hair Loss Sufferer Dreads Baring All to Airport Security

DEAR ABBY: I am a woman with alopecia (hair loss) who has gotten to the point where I now wear a hair-enhancement system that clips onto my real hair to stay in place. I am happy with it. My anxiety over the problem is gone.

However, the clips are metal, and now I'm wondering if I can ever fly on a plane again. I have seen little old ladies with hip replacements stopped by screeners. I know I would set off the alarm at the checkpoint.

Is there anything I can do to avoid this humiliation? Is there any provision for this sort of problem, or is it at the discretion of the airport security? -- ANONYMOUS IN TEXAS

DEAR ANONYMOUS: According to Greg Soule, the public affairs spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, even if the clips are small, they may set off the metal detector when you go through security. However, private screenings are available to anyone who requests them.

You should talk to a security officer in front of the checkpoint and ask to be screened privately. You will be taken from the public view and checked with a hand wand, among other screening techniques. If the clips are detected, a "pat down" and a visual inspection may have to be done to resolve the alarm.

You can bring a note from your physician explaining your condition, if having one helps your peace of mind. But they are not universally accepted because of concerns about fraudulent documents.