- Sterile dressings
- Local anaesthetic spray (only if
the skin is unbroken)
For OTC products, read Burns/Scalds
If you burn or scald yourself it
will help to place the injury under
running cold water for at least 10
minutes. Also, remove any tight clothing
or jewellery as there is a risk of
swelling in the injured area.
burns and scalds heal effectively if
they are treated promptly. Do not burst
Severe burns and scalds (larger than
the size of the persons palm), chemical
burns and electrical burns require medical
you have chilblains try to keep the
affected part of the body warm.
Chilblains affect around 1 in 12
people. Figures suggest that women
are around 6 times more likely to
suffer than men.
Chilblains are caused when people are abnormally sensitive to the
cold and the blood vessels contract so much that the skin is deprived
of blood and oxygen.
- Calamine lotion
- Preparations containing a local
anaesthetic and antiseptic
For OTC products, read Sunburn
of sunburn is better than cure. Always
use a sunscreen that gives an adequate
level of protection whenever your skin
is exposed to the sun. Skin cancer
is linked to sun exposure and is on
Good sun sense involves more than
just applying some suntan lotion.
For all-round sun safety, the following
points are important:
- Use a broad-spectrum sun protection product that offers a high
degree of protection.
- Use a water-resistant product for water sports
- Reapply sunscreens frequently, especially after swimming
- Use sunscreen even on cloudy days (UVA and UVB can penetrate
- Stay in the shade between 11.00hrs and 15.00hrs
- Wear a hat whenever possible
- Use a good moisturiser at night
- Use a sun-block on tender skin areas (lips, nose, ears etc)
- Use sun-block if suffering from a sun allergy
- Do not use sun beds
- Protect children up to 80% of sun damage is caused in
- Do not expose children under 3 years of age to direct sunlight
- Use sun-block or a very high protection sunscreen whenever young
children are out in the sun (e.g. SPF 30 or 35)
- Make sure that children wear clothing in addition to the use
of a sunscreen; hats and T-shirts are especially important.
or grey scaly rings which gradually
increase in size as the infection spreads.
It can be found everywhere on the body.
- Topical anti-fungal preparations
For OTC products, read Ringworm
Despite its name, ringworm is not
a worm, but a fungal infection caught
from animals or other infected humans.
As the ring grows the centre of the
ring appears to heal. This characteristic
is useful in differentiating between
Tinea and eczema or psoriasis.
If you suspect you have a ringworm infection on your scalp or under
your nails it is advisable to see your GP. It can spread to other
people so use only your own towel until it clears.
Impetigo is a highly contagious
bacterial infection that occurs usually
in young children.
Systemic antibiotics from the GP are often needed to treat impetigo,
depending upon the size of the area involved.
Red, itchy swelling around the site
of the bite.
- Severe pain.
- Local anaesthetic
For OTC products, read Insect
Bites and stings
'sting' from a bee or wasp should be
removed if it has been left in the
skin. A cold compress can reduce swelling
and relieve pain.
People who are very sensitive to
stings can have a really severe allergic
reaction: an anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms include blotchy rash, puffy
face and eyes, difficulty breathing
and rapid pulse. Medical help is
There are four symptom stages of
1 Tingle the skin tingles and itches before the sore appears.
2 Blister the sore begins as a small, raised blotch that
swells and forms blisters, either singly or in small clusters.
These are often very painful.
3 Weeping the blisters collapse and join up to form a large
weeping sore. At this stage the virus can easily be passed to others.
4 Scab the blisters begin to dry out and heal and a scab
Between 20% and 25% of people suffer
from recurrent cold sores. While
the majority develop only occasional
lesions, a tenth will have more than
six episodes a year.
Cold sores are caused by the 'Herpes simplex virus, picked
up by contact with an infected person. The majority of the time
the infection lies dormant in the nerves that supply the skin around
the lips and nostrils. When reactivated the virus travels down
the nerves to the surface of the skin and a new sore is formed.
Cold sores have different triggers that vary for each person, including
physical and emotional stress, illness that lowers resistance,
exposure to strong sunlight, menstruation, fatigue, dental treatment
and injuries to the mouth.
- Support hosiery
- Leg ulcers are usually treated by
nurses or health visitors.
For OTC products, read Footcare
Leg ulcers like pressure
sores are a manifestation
of an underlying problem with circulation.
In comparison with other parts of
the body the flow of blood through
he body is precarious and can be
affected by even small changes. The
flow back to the heart has to work
against gravity and relies on a series
of valves in the blood vessels. If
venous blood flow is impaired varicose
veins and leg ulcers may result.
People with diabetes are at particular
risk due to their restricted arterial
blood flow called ischaemia.
Eczema: used to describe
conditions running in families (atopic
eczema) - the skin is inflammed,
red, itchy and scaly. Dermatitis: used to describe skin
reactions to external conditions (contact
dermatitis) - inflammation of the
skin. Eczema can be used to describe
In its mildest form eczema is simply a tendency to dry skin. In
more severe cases the skin may crack, weep, swell, bleed or become
- Emollient bath preparation
- Emollient soap
- Moisturising cream or ointment
- Corticosteroids (e.g. beta methasone)
or antiseptic (non-antibiotic)
For OTC products, read Dry
Skin, Eczema and Psoriasis
bath frequently and avoid perfumed
baths. Use emollients. Water should
be warm but not too hot.
- Washing powders: Use non-biological washing powders.
- Allergens: Avoid known allergens. Environmental factors
such as animal fur and dander are known triggers. Special vacuum
cleaners, sprays and bedding can help reduce exposure to mites. Rooms
should be well ventilated and not too warm.
- Diet: One in ten eczema sufferers can link their condition
to diet. A trained dietitian can help advise and supervise your food
- Stress: any technique that helps a sufferer manage stress
- Finger nails: keep nails short to prevent damaging the skin
if you tend to scratch
- Young children can wear cotton mittens at night.
There is often confusion about the
terms dermatitis and eczema.
They are often used interchangeably
by dermatologists to describe a range
of inflammatory skin conditions.
The terms describe a range of skin
conditions of different causes where
the main symptoms are red, dry, itchy,
weeping and/or crusting skin. Causes: Atopic eczema: a chronic and fluctuating
condition of the skin with no known cause
although a family history is common.
In children, atopic eczema generally appears in the first year
of life, often between the ages of 2 and 4 months. Studies suggest
it affects about 10% of children. About half of these clear up
by the time the child is 18 months old, but the condition may continue
into adulthood. Allergic contact dermatitis (eczema) development
of hypersensitivity to a particular agent which
after a couple of exposures or over many years of repeated exposure
e.g. reaction to nickel in some jewellery. Irritant dermatitis (eczema):
a reaction of the skin following contact
with irritant substances e.g. household
cleaning materials. The reaction is localised
to the area of contact with the irritant.
eczema (cradle cap – this is
the name seborrhoeic eczema is given
when it happens to babies)
This is often referred to as severe
dandruff: red, scaly and itchy skin
often spreading from the scalp to
the ears, eyebrows and eyelids.
- Shampoos, ointments and gels containing
salicylic acis, dithranol and coal
tar. Coal tar has anti-inflammatory
and anti-scaling effects, while salicylic
acid is a keratolytic that aids the
shedding of scales. Dithranol slows
down the rate of skin cell turnover.
Some formulations contain the antifungal
ketoconazole which alleviates symptoms.
Special formulations are available
for infants with cradle cap. But gentle
rubbing with olive oil is all that
may be required
For OTC products, read Cradle
In babies seborrhoeic eczema starts
at around 2 months with thick yellow
scales on the scalp.
Itchy, sore skin between the toes
that will eventually crack and peel.
Sometimes appears white, inflamed
- Antifungal or keratolytic preparations
for shoes and socks.
- Antifungal dusting powders, creams,
sprays and ointments.
For OTC products, read Athletes
you suffer from Athletes Foot
it may help to wash and dry your feet
thoroughly every day. Socks or stockings
should be changed daily.
Around one in seven of the adult
population is affected by Athletes
Foot at any one time.
Athletes Foot is caused by the Fungus Tinea Pedis,
that colonises the outermost layer of the skin. The fungus produces
an enzyme that eventually produces toxins.
Athletes Foot is not confined to sporty people! Anyone can
get it, except the very young. The infection can be picked up by
walking barefoot across a changing room floor or at a swimming
pool. Once caught, the fungus flourishes in the warm, moist environment
between the toes.
A small area of thickened, often
hardened, skin with a central core.
Found on the knuckles of the toes,
particularly on the side of the little
- Keratolytic salicylic acid to soften
the hardened skin.
- Felt rings can be worn around the
corn to prevent pressure from footwear.
For OTC products, read Corns,
Warts and Verrucas
can remove corns and calluses by soaking
your feet regularly in warm water to
soften them. Gentle rubbing with a
pumice stone will eventually remove
the affected skin.
Women are more prone to foot problems
because of wearing high heals and
pointed shoes that force the toes
forward. 30% of women in the UK suffer
from corns, compared to 14% of men. NB: People with diabetes should not
self-treat any foot problems but should
see their GP or chiropodist.
A rough, usually raised surface
on the skin that is a regular shape
and clearly defined borders. There
may be black spots in the centre,
showing where tiny blood vessels
have become involved.
Warts normally grow on the hands; verrucas are warts growing inwards
on the soles of the feet.
Genital warts (on the penis or vagina) can be very small and cause
little or no discomfort.
- Wart removers containing keratolytic
agent salicylic acid. This helps remove
the affected skin and stimulates production
of protective antibodies.
- Lactic acid has corrosive properties
and is included in many preparations.
When applying these products care
must be taken not to let them spread
onto unaffected skin.
For OTC products, read Corns,
Warts and Verrucas
abrasion with pumice stones or emery
boards helps remove the treated dead
Warts and verrucas are caused by
viral infections of the skin (30
different ones in total). They are
not nearly as contagious as we once
thought and can take the human body
up to two years to develop immunity
against the virus. This explains
why warts may be present for some
time and then resolve of their own
Warts growing around the genital area and anus spread rapidly and
require medical attention. It is important to have these removed
as warts on the penis are linked to cancer of the cervix in their
Skin lesions that appear as well-defined,
raised, reddish, slightly itchy plaques
of tissue which are covered in large
amounts of loose, slightly silvery
scales. The scalp is also commonly
affected but the face is very rarely
In complications of psoriasis the nails may be affected and 7%
of sufferers have joint pain.
you know what triggers your urticaria,
try to avoid contact.
Urticaria affects 20% of the population
at some time in their lives. Women
may be more affected than men especially
in the case of chronic urticaria.
It follows exposure to a certain allergen that may remain
unidentified by the patient. Urticaria can be triggered by physical
causes such as heat, cold, pressure and sunlight or viral infections.
- minoxidil and finesteride (private
prescription at present) works for
both men and women but needs to be
For OTC products, read Baldness
One in twenty men start to lose
their hair in their 20s; this rises
to one in three in the 30s and to
over four in five by the 70s. More
than half of women over 50 suffer
some form of hair loss.
There are an average of 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on the human head,
with a life-cycle ranging from 2 to 6 years.
Normally around 100 hairs are shed every day and, when the numbers
lost exceed this, hair fall or thinning of the hair is noticed.
The most common cause of hair loss in both men and women is hereditary
loss, which accounts for 95% of all hair loss. This is linked to
the hormone dihydrotestosterone.. Hair loss can also be related
to other factors including drug treatment, thyroid disease and
iron deficiency. It is also common in women about 3 months after
Excessive shedding of scales from
the scalp; itching.
- Shampoos containing coal tar or
its derivatives, pyrithione zinc,
selenium sulphide, keratolytics, antimicrobial
detergents or the antifungal ketoconazole.
The shampoo formulation of ketoconazole
is suitable for the treatment and
prevention of both dandruff and seborrhoeic
For OTC products, read Dandruff
Dandruff is rare in young children
but increases in incidence throughout
the second decade of life. It affects
up to 75% of the population at some
time in their lives.
It is caused by a naturally increased rate of cell turnover in
the scalp, producing more of the horny cells that make
up the outermost layer of the skin. This may be linked to the male
hormone, testosterone, but sufferers have also been found to have
high levels of the yeast Pityrosporum ovale.
Itching, inflammation and sometimes
secondary infection. Sometimes thin
greyish burrows about 0.5cm long
can be seen in the skin. A characteristic
rash can form on several parts of
the body in the usual sequence: between
the fingers, wrists, axially, genitalia,
buttocks and abdomen
- Antiparasitic such as malathion
- Benzyl benzoate, an irritant ( should
not be used with children.)
- Antipruritic such as crotamiton
- Oral antihistamine
For OTC products, read Scabies/Head
Scabies is caused by a mite that
burrows into the skin.
Itching may persist for some time after the infection has been
cleared. ALL MEMBERS OF THE AFFECTED HOUSEHOLD
SHOULD BE TREATED.
Many people are unaware of the fact
they carry headlice as they have no
However, after time the body may become sensitised to substances
injected by the louse during feeding and this can lead to itching and
possibly to secondary infection. Black, gritty powder (louse faeces)
on pillows and collars is also a sign
- Insecticides (pediculocides) e.g.
malathion, permethrin and phenothrin.
- Aqueous and alcoholic lotions, crème
rinses and shampoos.
The instructions for use must be followed
carefully for treatment to be successful.
Headlice can also become resistant
For OTC products, read Scabies/Head
combing is an alternative method for
tackling headlice. Hair must be meticulously
combed using a conditioner after shampooing
the hair. For the most effective treatment,
use a detection comb for
at least 30 minutes each time, over
the whole scalp, at 4-day intervals,
for a minimum of two weeks.
There are three types of human lice: headlice, body
lice and pubic lice (sometimes
Headlice are the most commonly encountered. The only way to
be sure you have headlice is to remove a live louse from the scalp.
Grooming the hair with a special detector comb over a white sheet
of paper may reveal one.
At any one time 2.5% of school children will be infected with headlice.
This can rise rapidly to 25% in an outbreak.
Headlice are wingless insects, growing up to the size of 2-3mm,
which live on the scalp. Their six legs have claws, specially adapted
for holding onto hair shafts, and they are difficult to dislodge.
Headlice can not jump or fly, nor do they live in bedding, furniture
or clothes. They can be passed by close head-to-head contact. Headlice
lay 6-8 eggs a night, gluing them to the base of the hair shafts.
Once hatched the empty, whole egg-shell left behind is called a
nit. Nits are a good sign that headlice are, or have been, present.
As the hair grows, the nits stay glued in position. The distance
of the nits from the scalp gives an indication of the length of
time since the eggs were laid.
After treatment for headlice it is important to trace all contacts
and determine the source of the infection. If this is not done
the headlice may recur.
30 per cent of white men have started
to lose hair by the age of 30, and
50 per cent by the age of 50. By
old age, nearly 100 per cent have
lost hair to some extent. Black men
are four times less likely to than
white men to lose their hair and
- Hair loss usually does not start until after puberty, and the rate of loss
varies widely. Some men go completely bald in less than 5 years but for most
it takes 15-25 years.
- Hair loss normally begins with thinning at both sides at the front of the scalp,
followed by thinning across the top of the head. Eventually there is complete
hair loss over the crown, producing a bald patch. This grows and joins the receding
frontal hairline, leaving behind an island of hair at the front of the scalp.
Eventually this also disappears leaving only patches of hair at the back and
sides of the head, which may also be lost eventually.
- Most men are not aware of hair actually falling out, but just notice that it
For OTC products, read Baldness
There is one treatment available
without prescription: Regaine (Pharmacia),
which contains minoxidil. It
is available in two strengths: Regular (2%) and Extra (5%). The Regular
strength, but not the Extra strength, can also be used by women.
- Regaine produces some re-growth of hair in about 60% of male users within 4
months of use. The manufacturer claims that the Extra strength can produce over
40% more hair growth over 12 months than the Regular strength, and that it acts
faster. Re-growth in women with the Regular strength is slower than in men.
- There may be some additional hair loss in the first couple of weeks of treatment
before re-growth begins. Use should be stopped if there is been no effect after
twelve months of treatment. Regaine is not a permanent cure, hair loss will begin
again if treatment is stopped.
A prescription medicine, Propecia
(finasteride) is available, but
a private prescription is needed
as the NHS will not pay for it.
Finasteride works by reducing the
rate of breakdown of testosterone.
It usually takes at least four
months for any effect to be seen.
Red, sore rash that usually starts
around a babys genitals and,
if left untreated, the skin becomes
shiny and tight, with inflamed spots
and pus-filled centres.
Another type of nappy rash occurs in babies who wear fabric nappies.
Here the redness covers most of the nappy area and is caused by
an allergy to chemicals in the washing powder or fabric conditioner.
- Skin protectants, which act as
a barrier to moisture, can be applied
at each nappy change.
For OTC products, read Nappy
nappy area needs to be kept scrupulously
clean and any dirty nappies should
be changed as soon as possible.
Nappy rash is probably the most
common of all infant skin conditions.
It is usually caused by the skin
coming into contact with urine and
faeces. Bacteria in the faeces break
down the urine and release ammonia,
which irritates the skin.
Nappy rash can also be caused by a babys skin not being dried
properly after bathing. This type of rash usually starts in the
skin creases at the top of the thighs.
If the rash starts around the anus and moves over the buttocks
and onto the thighs, it may be due to candida infection.
Cases of severe nappy rash require medical attention as the rash
may require treatment with a topical antibiotic or antifungal preparation
- Antiperspirants that contain aluminium
salts, such as aluminium chloride
hexahydrate, which help to reduce
or prevent excessive sweating.
For OTC products, read Excessive
If you sweat uncontrollably, even
under normal temperature conditions,
its likely youre suffering
from Hyperhidrosis. The condition
can be made worse by emotional stress
or hot and humid conditions.
Inappropriate sweating occurs because the bodys internal
thermostat is set incorrectly so that the body thinks that
it is overheating and attempts to cool down through excessive sweating.
The most commonly affected parts of the body are palms of the hands,
soles of feet, underarms, the back and the face.
a directory of medicines and
food supplements that are available
'over the counter' (OTC) from
your pharmacist. The links below
will take you to pages detailing
products which may help treat
or relieve the following symptoms:
Direct - The gateway
to health information on
Contains a list of information on health, including features,
healthy living, healthcare guide, conditions and treatments
and frequently asked questions.