I know skin tages are harmless, but how do I get rid of them?

A plague of skin tags

Q: My neck is slowly becoming populated with tiny brown tags of skin, mostly where I used to wear necklaces. They are not painful, but I would like to get rid of them. My GP was dismissive, saying that I should just leave them. Will they go, will more come, and how can I get rid of them?

A: They are skin tags. They aren't serious, they aren't cancerous and they won't go away of their own accord. I don't know if more will appear, but people who get them usually get quite a few. Another common place for skin tags is under the breasts and in the armpits. They become more common with age. There are several ways to remove them. A doctor will use either a scalpel, a pair of surgical scissors, or a freezing device that kills them. Another option is to tie them with thread. This cuts off their blood supply and they eventually die and drop off. Patients have told me that a simpler way of getting rid of them is to regularly rub them with a loofah or bath glove that is designed to clear away dead skin cells. If you do try this, let me know if it works.

Too hot to handle

Q. How high a temperature can a young child tolerate without suffering harm? Our two-year-old son was ill with an ear infection recently and when the GP took his temperature, it was 39.7deg. When I took it at home with a forehead thermometer it was 37.5deg, so I was alarmed to see it so high with an electronic ear thermometer. The GP seemed unconcerned by such a high temperature, and just suggested regular paracetamol and antibiotics. Does any harm come from a temperature over 39deg?

A. Some children seem to be able to tolerate very high temperatures without any ill effects. I have seen children happily running around my consulting room with temperatures of over 40deg. The main danger is that it can cause a febrile convulsion in children aged between six months and five years. These affect about one in 20 young children. Fortunately, they rarely cause any serious or permanent problems, but they can be very frightening for parents. The best way to deal with a high temperature is a combination of methods. Remove the child's clothes and sponge with tepid water. A dose of paracetamol should bring the temperature down by 1deg-1.5deg within 30 minutes. Ibuprofen also works. One final note: forehead thermometers are notoriously unreliable. It may be worthwhile investing in something more accurate.

Send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or email health@independent.co.uk Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions

Readers write

NP, a retired doctor, believes the Pain Gone Pen works:

My late wife used it to relieve arthritic pain. It is clear that the pen is a simple transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TNS) machine. TNS is widely used in NHS physiotherapy clinics. I used to advise my patients to try it there and then buy their own machines. The Pain Gone Pen is a good deal less expensive than this equipment!