I’ve lost a stone in a month without dieting or exercise, should I be worried?

A COLD can strike at any time of year, but when the seasons are changing, it can feel like everyone you know is sniffling and sneezing.

If you do catch one, you don’t need to see a GP unless: you have a very high temperature and feel shivery, your symptoms suddenly escalate, you’ve been unwell for three weeks, you’re getting chest pain or shortness of breath, or you have an existing condition or weakened immune system.

Dr Zoe Williams answers some common questions sent in by readers

Dr Zoe Williams answers some common questions sent in by readers

Andernfalls, arm yourself with soft tissues, stay hydrated, rest, and you can take a decongestant if you’ve got a blocked nose, and pain killers if you’re feeling achy.

And remember to get your Grippe jab, if you’re eligible!

inzwischen, here’s what readers asked me this week…

Q I HAVE suffered with itchy skin for years. No creams help. Doctors say try this or that; nothing works.

It wakes me up at 2am and I scratch my arms to bits, to the extent that they bleed. I think it is prickly heat which is brought on by hot showers and central heating. The only way I can get relief is by putting my arms under cold water or applying cold pads.

EIN Itching — pruritis to give it the medical name — is a skin sensation that drives us to scratch ourselves. We developed itching to protect us against parasites and insect bites so it is useful, but it can become troublesome and at any one time, around eight per cent of the population suffers from significant pruritis.

Itching can come with or without a rash and in your case it sounds like you don’t have a rash. With prolonged symptoms, like yours, it’s important to do a blood test to see if there’s an underlying condition causing the itching.

If it’s been going on for a long time and you don’t feel your GP is able to offer any further help then you could ask them about a referral to a dermatologist, who would be able to do a biopsy of the skin.

It’s interesting you say it happens at night; Ekzem, psoriasis and hives can all worsen in the evening. You should have been advised by your GP to use emollient moisturisers, which form a barrier and protect the skin and should be applied several times a day.

Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter creams containing crotamiton or lauromacrogols. Your doctor may prescribe other creams such as doxepin cream, which has antihistamine action when applied in cream form.

Topical steroid treatments can deal with skin inflammation and settle redness, and oral antihistamines taken daily could help too. There are some skin treatments that can only be given in hospital, such as phototherapy — which is an ultraviolet light therapy. If it is prickly heat, there are things you can do at home too. Try patting rather than scratching the itch.

Use natural fabrics if you can afford them — bamboo that will help wick away heat and sweat — shower in tepid not hot water, avoid using soaps or foaming body washes and keep a cool flannel in the fridge with emollient cream on to apply to the skin during itching episodes. Itching isn’t something you have to live with, so please do keep pursuing a solution.

Q I HAVE lost a stone in the last month despite not changing my diet or exercising, should I see my GP?

EIN Ja, you should. One stone of Gewicht lost unintentionally in such a short period of time requires medical investigation. Your GP will want to know if you have been experiencing any symptoms alongside the weight loss and will also ask you about appetite, Rauchen, and how you’ve been feeling emotionally.

It might be worth thinking this through and making a list of any other symptoms to take with you.

They will want to examine you and it’s likely they will recommend blood tests and maybe some other tests depending on your answers and any examination findings. While not the only cause, Krebs can cause unexplained weight loss, so with such a significant amount of weight loss as you describe, it’s important to make arrangements to see your GP straight away, and definitely within two weeks.

Toe the line on verrucas

Q MY son has verrucas on both feet, what can be done?

EIN Verrucas, or plantar warts, are warts that occur on the soles of the feet.

They’re caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which infects the outer layer of the skin.

They’re caught by coming into direct contact with infected skin cells.

They’re often painless and most verrucas will clear in time, but there are plenty of over the counter remedies and your pharmacist can advise you on which one is best. Treatments include salicylic acid or gel which removes the outer layer of dead skin, ,triggering the immune system into attacking the virus.

The outer layer is then filed away and treatment continues until the skin is clear (at least three months) so it is worth persisting if the verruca is shrinking.

Cryotherapy freezes the verruca, and there are plenty of foot clinics across the UK that offer the service, as well as some GP practices.

Cryotherapy can be painful though.

There’s conflicting evidence about duct tape but some parents use the tape to cover the verucca for six days before soaking the verruca and filing away any dead skin and then reapplying the duct tape.

This can be done for two months and is successful in some cases.
If none of this has worked and the verruca is causing pain or problems, then it’s time to see the GP.

Q I HAVE a white blemish on my nose that has been there for over a year, should I worry?

EIN A number of conditions can cause white blemishes to form on your face, and they generally aren’t cause for concern.

It is also reassuring to hear that it has been there for a long time without significant growth or change.

White blemishes on the face — and nose in particular — could be milia, whiteheads or sun spots. Milia usually appear as hard, raised bumps which are small in size, just one to two millimetres. They’re caused by keratin becoming trapped beneath the surface of the skin and they are completely harmless.

Whiteheads are one of the types of spots that can be present in acne. Clogged pores are the main cause.

Sun spots are generally round, flat, and between two and five millimetres. These are caused by too much exposure to UV light, and while harmless, may be an indication that your skin has been subjected to skin damage.