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To Your Good Health: Exercise Won’t Help Sagging Neck Skin

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 62-year-old man who is starting to get a sagging neck. Is there any exercise I can do to pull this skin back? I just don’t want to have a turkey neck. I do 150 pushups a day, and I work on the treadmill. I’m not overweight. Is there anything you can think of? — D.C.

Answer: Loose skin around the neck is very common as we get older. Exercise isn’t likely to help, since for most people the issue is not weak muscle but loosened skin. The best cosmetic result comes from plastic surgery. You may be surprised that men are more likely to have plastic surgery on their neck than women are. There are newer, nonsurgical approaches, such as focused ultrasound to stimulate growth of collagen under the skin.

Dear Dr. Roach: My husband was a heavy smoker for most of his life. He is 60. Though he has finally quit, he has an electronic cigarette that he enjoys. The years of smoking have taken their toll on his lungs, and when he contracts a cold, the inevitable cough becomes almost incapacitating, sometimes to the point of him passing out. My question is, What effect does inhaling the vapor from the e-cigarettes have on someone with limited lung capacity due to colds or COPD? — T.R.Z.

Answer: Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered nicotine-delivery devices. Although they are sometimes marketed to help people quit smoking, it sounds like your husband is using them to satisfy his addiction to nicotine.

The health effect of e-cigarettes is debated, but I think it is clear that they are safer than regular cigarettes — but not safe. They do increase carbon monoxide levels in the blood, which is bad for people with COPD. They also cause lung function to deteriorate, at least a little, in the short term. Very little is known about long-term use.

I am concerned, hearing your story about coughing so hard that he is passing out and that his COPD is quite severe. In an ideal world, he would quit all nicotine products, but I think he needs very aggressive treatment of his COPD, if this is not being done already.

Dear Dr. Roach: My neighbor says my wife got poison ivy by handling their dog, a Yorkie. Is this possible? — F.K.

A: Yes; if a dog is outside among poison ivy (or poison oak or poison sumac, depending on where you live), the dog can carry the allergen on its coat and rub it off on you. Only very small amounts of the oily allergen are necessary to cause a skin reaction.

If you know or suspect your dog has been in contact with poison ivy, you should wear gloves as you bathe the dog in warm water with a mild shampoo. Then you’ll need to find a way of keeping the dog away from the poison ivy in the first place, as symptoms get worse with repeated exposures — for both you and possibly your dog, which also can have a reaction to poison ivy.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or write to P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.