A is for acne, cause of untold torment to its (mainly) adolescent sufferers. Acne spots and cysts occur when the skin's hair follicles become blocked with sebum, the oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands; bacteria multiply and the follicle becomes inflamed. Causes include hormonal changes, drugs and exposure to certain chemicals.

First-line treatments include topical lotions to unblock the pores; if these fail, long-term antibiotic treatment can reduce inflammation. But be warned: sufferers taking the antibiotic minocycline (brand name Minocin MR), should stop if they start feeling generally unwell or develop signs of arthritis, doctors have warned. The most widely prescribed acne treatment, minocycline, has been found to cause liver disease and lupus, a severe disabling disorder which causes arthritis.

B is for bunions, set to stage a comeback among young girls who are ditching their Doc Martens in favour of Sixties- style pointed shoes, according to chiropodists. A tendency to bunions is often inherited but may be aggravated by badly designed footwear.

A bunion is a fluid-filled pad that develops at the base of the big toe, caused by a joint deformity. Apart from looking ugly, it can become inflamed and very painful. Bunions can be prevented, either by surgery to realign the bone or by toe pads worn inside the shoe. A plastic "night splint" to straighten the toe is especially effective. Bunions can now be removed in day surgery under local anaesthetic, by podiatrists (trained foot specialists). The Association of Podiatrists, 01462-790371.

C is for croup and few sounds are more disturbing to parents than the hoarse "bark"and laboured breathing of a child suffering this common condition. Croup develops when the voice box becomes inflamed and swells, usually after a cough or cold, blocking the windpipe. Often worse at night, panic can make matters worse; if soothed a child will be able to breathe more easily. A warm, steamy atmosphere is thought to help - try leaving the hot tap running in the bathroom. Some children may need admitting to hospital, where they can be given humidified oxygen.

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