Daily Express

Washing my hands so often has left them flaky, sore and itchy

- Dr Rosemary Leonard


I’VE ALWAYS had dry skin and been prone to eczema but been able to manage it by using lots of moisturise­r. But now with all the hand washing we’ve been told to do, as well as using sanitiser gels when I’m out, my hands are in a terrible state. The skin is flaking, itchy and a couple of my fingers are really red and sore. I’ve been slapping on my usual moisturise­r, but it doesn’t seem to be helping any more. Any suggestion­s?


CONSTANT hand washing and use of alcohol gel can be tough on even normal skin, so people with eczema are having an especially difficult time with their hands. If the skin is flaky and itchy then applying one per cent hydrocorti­sone ointment can help – I find this is more moisturisi­ng than one per cent cream and also it doesn’t tend to sting, which can sometimes happen with cream.You can buy this from chemists.

However, that soreness and redness on your fingers suggests that your skin may have become infected.The bacteria responsibl­e produces toxins that make the eczema worse, so it’s important to get this treated as soon as possible. Your GP may be able to deal with this either with a phone call, or better still, a video call, so phone the surgery and make an appointmen­t as the antibiotic­s you may need are only available on prescripti­on.

Once the inflammati­on has settled, regular use of a thick, unperfumed moisturisi­ng cream is really important as this can help to repair the damaged outer skin and lock moisture on the inside. Use it after you wash your hands, before applying sanitiser gel.

If your product comes in a tub, then it’s best to take a blob out with a spoon, rather than your fingers, to avoid possibly introducin­g infection into the tub. If you are using steroids, these should be applied either 20 minutes before your moisturise­r, or 20 minutes after and you should never use steroids to moisturise dry skin – they should only be used on active areas of inflammati­on.


I HAVE had a low blood count for some years, with my neutrophil­s 1.52. I’m not sure what exactly this means, but does it make me more vulnerable to Covid-19? I’m in my mid-70s and otherwise in good health.


THERE are several different types of white blood cells, but the most abundant type are neutrophil­s, which usually make up between 55 and 70 per cent of the total white blood count.A normal total white cell count is between four and 11 (strictly speaking, this is in units of 10 to the power of nine per litre) and a normal neutrophil count is between 1.5 and eight.

Like all types of white blood cell, neutrophil­s are an important part of the immune system and are especially important in fighting infections caused by bacteria. Some groups of people, such as those of Afro-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent, often have a low neutrophil count and, because of this, a slightly low total white cell count. This is normal and does not increase the risk of getting an infection.

A low neutrophil count can also occur in some autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus and can be caused by some drugs, such as some antibiotic­s, specialist anti-inflammato­ry medication­s for conditions such as ulcerative colitis, some drugs used for serious mental health disorders and also chemothera­py drugs.

Much less commonly, a low neutrophil count can occur in disorders of the bone marrow, but there are nearly always changes in the levels of other white blood cells as well.The level of all white cells can change from day to day and if any abnormalit­y is found, it’s always worth having the test repeated.

It sounds as if your level is consistent­ly at the lower end of the normal range, but this may well be genetic and normal for you.

As long as you have no other health issues, then it will not mean that you are at increased risk of serious Covid-19 infection.

Regular use of unperfumed moisturisi­ng cream is important

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UNCOMFORTA­BLY NUMB: Reader has tingling toes

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