NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.
I am a woman in my 40s and over the last few weeks, patches of skin on my arms and legs have become very dry and itchy. I haven’t changed any cosmetics or household products recently. What do you suggest?
There are many reasons for skin to be dry. Some people will have naturally dry skin and may be prone to eczema and allergic skin reactions. Dry, itchy, irritated skin which is newly occurring may be a reaction to creams or detergents or can happen as a result of exposure to pet hairs. Dry skin is more common as you get older as the skin will naturally produce less natural oils with age. Identifying the cause of dry skin is sometimes difficult. Often it may be something simple such as a change of shampoo or detergent or washing powder. Hot showers and use of soap products as well as not moisturising the skin after showering or swimming may also be the cause of recent dry skin.
Sometimes changes in weather conditions such as exposure to cold air and air conditioning systems may result in dry, irritated skin. Stress may also sometimes cause a flare-up of eczema-like reactions, as can excessive sweating.
Dry skin may be prone to irritation and inflammation which may present as itchy red patches. Identifying any new changes in the environment or triggers and avoiding them is the most helpful way to solve the problem. Ensuring the skin is well moisturised with lotions or ointments will also help to relieve symptoms. It is important to moisturise frequently to ensure the skin’s moisture barrier is intact. This will also help to prevent the dryness from worsening.
Simple, non-perfumed products are available in pharmacies and supermarkets. If dry irritated patches of inflammation do not disappear after use of a regular daily moisturiser and identification with subsequent elimination of any irritant, it may be necessary to see your GP to prescribe a steroid cream to relieve inflammation and investigate the source.
My four-year-old has developed a verruca on her foot. She probably picked it up at the local swimming pool — is she too young for conventional treatment?
Verrucas or plantar warts are extremely common. They occur when the wart virus is contracted by direct contact. When the skin is wet or exposed it may be more susceptible to the introduction of infection resulting in a verruca.
In some cases no treatment is needed for verrucas if they are not causing problems as many disappear on their own after a year. This is especially the case with children.
In general, for many children and adults, treatment with over- the-counter sprays and creams can be a good first choice if you choose to treat a verruca. These preparations will freeze the verruca or treat it by attacking the wart itself. Keeping the verruca covered with a corn plaster and a band aid will help to speed up the healing process and, if the verrucais causing discomfort, help the foot feel better while walking.
There are lots of preparations on the market and all are effective, which one you choose is often a matter of personal preference. It is a good idea to discuss with your pharmacist which preparation is most suitable for young children.
Persistence will be necessary in the treatment process however, with many verrucas remaining in place for several months.
Freezing therapy carried out by your doctor may also be an option for older children or adults. In some practices GPs will freeze a verruca with cryotherapy where very cold liquid nitrogen is used to destroy the verruca. This can also require several sessions.
All verruca treatments may be slightly painful, however cryotherapy is generally not recommended for very young children because it may be too painful and they may not be able to sit still to receive the treatment.
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