Ask the doctor

Fighting teenage acne

My 13-year-old son has severe acne. Even though he has oily skin, until recently he didn’t burst into pimples. Is the reason Chennai’s humidity or season change? Should I ask him to use anti-acne ointments or wait for his skin to clear up on its own? — Jayalakshmi K, Chennai

Acne is a common reaction to several physical changes that occur during adolescence with 80 percent of teenagers developing pimples. So, the weather or humidity is not to blame. Although the skin may appear oily in summer because of heat and humidity and needs to be kept clean, please note that over-cleansing of skin is not recommended. Washing the face with soap and water once or twice daily is sufficient. There are several good medications to treat acne. It’s important to manage acne early because physical appearance is especially important to teenagers. I recommend that you consult a dermatologist who will assess the severity of acne and prescribe treatment, if required. 

My 14-year-old son has a lot of facial hair. He is under peer pressure to shave as some of his classmates have started facial shaving. I believe 14 is not an appropriate age to start shaving and feel it will do more harm than good. Please advise. — Geetha Karthikeyan, Bangalore

It is normal for 14-year-old males to develop facial hair, and some sport more facial growth than others. Shaving enables men to become well-groomed. The right age to begin shaving must be determined by the intensity of hair growth. But before he starts, he needs to be taught by an adult or parent the best techniques to minimise injuries while shaving. Shaving after a bath is advisable because that is when the hair and skin are moist. An alternative is to trim facial hair. But this too requires care and guidance to avoid injury. 

My six-year-old often gets mosquito-bite like swellings on his skin that itch badly. He then keeps scratching them till they often bleed. How should we treat these swellings and subsequent itching? — Ramani Chandran, Coimbatore 

Itching and skin bumps reflect the severity of a person’s allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. Those who have a strong allergic reaction to mosquito bites develop these symptoms. The best way to deal with this is to prevent mosquito bites. 

Ensure home surroundings are clean and free of mosquitoes, use mosquito nets and safe, natural repellents, if required. But if the allergy is severe, your paediatrician can prescribe antihistamines. They provide good relief during intense itching. Please note that it is very important to keep your child’s nails cut and clean so that he does not injure himself while scratching bites and itches. Also wash any areas of injury with water and apply a local antiseptic to prevent secondary infections.

 

(Dr. Nisha Miriam George is a paediatric consultant at Sundaram Medical Foundation and Dr. Rangarajan Memorial Hospital, Chennai)