Our guide to what that annoying niggle is and how to treat i.
Here’s our guide to what could be causing that annoying niggle and how to zap it…
Most likely: Dandruff
This common dry skin condition causes white or grey flakes of skin to appear on the scalp and in the hair, says Dr Ross Perry, GP and cosmetics doctor at Cosmedics Skin Clinics ( cosmedics.co.uk )
Try using an anti-dandruff shampoo containing ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, selenium sulphide, ketoconazole or coal tar.
Could be: Head lice
If you have young children, there’s a good chance this is the cause of family members scratching their heads, says Dr Perry. Comb hair with a detection comb, section by section, while it’s wet and covered in conditioner to help the lice and their eggs (nits) slide out. Then treat with an over-the-counter treatment.
Alternatively, it could be a fungal infection like ringworm. And dry skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, can cause inflammation and patchy hair loss. See your GP.
Most likely: An allergy
Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common cause of itchy eyes and normally affects both of them, explains Dr Zubair Ahmed, founder of MedicSpot.
It occurs when your body releases too much histamine in response to an otherwise harmless substance such as pollen, house dust or mould and is easily treated with antihistamine eyedrops.
Could be: Conjunctivitis
Inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye – can cause itchy, red and watery eyes, says Dr Ahmed. “Your eye may be itchy, gritty and red with a discharge which might make your eyelashes stick together.
Cleaning the affected eye a few times a day with cooled boiled water and cotton wool normally helps resolve symptoms with no medical treatment needed. However, you may need antibiotic eye drops depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Alternatively, the problem could be blepharitis. This is an inflammation, often due to an infection, that leads to swelling, burning and itching of the eyelids, explains Dr Ahmed.
This can become a chronic condition so you need to clean the eyes hygienically (see conjunctivitis) and may also need antibiotics. If you start having pain in your eyes or notice a decrease in your vision, seek medical attention so that serious conditions can be excluded.
Itchy hands and fingers
Most likely: Contact dermatitis
This is a type of eczema caused by excessive hand-washing, housework or chemicals, says Dr Clare Morrison, GP at online doctor and pharmacy, MedExpress.
Itching is accompanied by redness, cracks and, sometimes, blisters. It’s common in those who get their hands wet frequently, such as hairdressers, nurses and cleaners.
If it’s not possible to avoid the offending trigger, wear rubber gloves with thin cotton gloves inside, she advises, as rubber gloves alone can lead to sweating, which may aggravate the problem further.
Fragrance-free emollients (moisturisers) can help and if all else fails use a gentle steroid cream for no longer than a week at a time. (Don’t use this on broken or infected skin).
Could be: Scabies
This is a highly contagious skin condition caused when tiny mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) burrow into your skin. It’s spread by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing infected clothing or towels.
Scabies mites like warm places skin folds, between fingers, under fingernails – but the rash and itchiness can spread all over the body. See a pharmacist for over-the-counter creams and ointments, and wash bed linen, towels and nightwear at a high temperature.
Another cause could be psoriasis (look out for silvery scales and skin thickening). Fungal infections and allergies to the metal in jewellery are other causes of itchy hands.
Itching in pregnancy
Digital Vision This is very common in pregnancy, as hormonal changes make the skin more sensitive and the enlarging abdomen causes the skin to stretch and rub against clothing, explains Dr Morrison.
Occasionally, itching can be a sign of a condition called obstetric cholestasis particularly in the last trimester.
This occurs when bile acids from the liver end up in the blood. As well as generalised itching, there will usually be other signs, such as pale stools, dark urine and jaundice. If this is suspected, your GP will monitor it with blood tests.
The condition disappears once the baby is born, so inducing labour early may be recommended.
Most likely: Athlete’s foot
This itchy fungal infection often occurs between the toes but can appear on any part of the foot, says podiatrist Emma Steven-son, of The College of Podiatry. The persistent flaking, red skin occurs if your feet are regularly in damp, warm conditions, so it’s common in runners.
Try once-only anti-fungal remedies, she advises. And to prevent re-infection, wash your feet daily, and thoroughly dry the skin between the toes.
Could be: Diabetes
Itching of the feet, legs or ankles is a common complaint in people with diabetes caused by too high blood sugar levels. See your GP for investigation.
Also known as pruritus, this is an irritating and uncontrollable sensation that makes you want to scratch to relieve the feeling. Itchiness can be generalised (all over the body) or localised to one area.
The possible causes are varied and will depend upon whether itchiness is accompanied by a rash, says Dr Perry.
Most likely: Eczema
Longstanding chronic skin conditions that trigger itchiness include eczema, psoriasis and seborrhoeic dermatitis, and these account for around 80% of cases, explains Dr Perry. See your GP for an accurate diagnosis and use the prescribed moisturisers as instructed. Severe cases should be referred to a dermatologist.
Could be: Acute (short-term) cause
Anything from infections (chickenpox, ringworm etc) and parasites (threadworms, bedbugs ) to insect bites and allergic reactions (prickly heat, soaps, perfume or nickel), says Dr Perry.
Ask a pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter treatments, he advises, adding: Causes of itchy skin with no rash could be due to food sensitivity or a reaction to medication, or a problem with the liver, gall bladder or thyroid.
If the itching persists, see your GP for investigation.
Itching during the menopause
During the menopause , levels of the hormone oestrogen fall, causing the skin to produce less oil and lose elasticity. This can lead to itching, says Dr Morrison.
Eat more omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, and also walnuts,eggs and flaxseed oil. Shower instead of soaking in a hot bath to avoid drying out the skin, and apply a non-fragranced moisturiser.