More common in kids than in adults, warts are skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. Viruses that cause warts are passed from person to person by close physical contact or from a surface that someone with a wart touches. Children, who bite their fingernails, pick a hangnail, or have an open cut or scratch are more susceptible to developing warts, because the skin is less-protected and exposed, which creates open areas for a virus to enter and cause the wart. Additionally, make sure your child does not pick at the wart, as it may spread to other parts of the body.
The length of time between when someone is exposed to the virus that causes warts and when a wart appears varies. Warts can grow very slowly and may take weeks or longer, in some cases, to develop. There are four types of warts including: common, flat, planter, and filiform warts.
- Small, grainy bumps that are rough to the touch
- Most warts are flesh-colored, tan, pink, or white and may sometimes contain small black dots that are tiny, clotted blood vessels
- Although there’s no way to prevent warts, it’s always a good idea to encourage kids to wash their hands regularly and well.
- If your child has a cut or scratch, use soap and water to clean the area, because open wounds are more susceptible to warts and other infections.
- It’s also wise to have your kids wear waterproof sandals or flip-flops in public showers, locker rooms, and around public pools (this can help protect against plantar warts and other infections, like athlete’s foot).
Getting rid of warts is not always easy, and no single method works better than another for any particular patient. If you do nothing, the body’s immune system will eventually get rid of warts, but it may take months to years, and the warts may multiply and/or spread in the meantime. Treatments either cause the wart’s destruction or stimulate the immune system to destroy it from within.
- Some studies have shown that simply putting duct tape over the wart for a few days, then removing it and replacing it with a new piece (removing the tape physically removes the top layers of wart) is as effective as other treatments. If you choose to use this method, you should plan to do so for 4-8 weeks. I find this doesn’t work well on hands, which get wet often from washing, etc. or for sweaty feet (the tape won’t stick). This is clearly an easy, benign option.
- Acid products literally “eat away” at the wart little by little to destroy the lesions. This can be effective at all body locations. Salicylic acid products are one such over-the-counter product.
- Cryosurgery is the technical name for “freezing” warts. This procedure creates a frozen, dead top layer which often then falls off. This may take multiple treatments at intervals of about 2 weeks, to get to the bottom layers of the wart. This can be done in the office, or at a specialist’s office.
- Dermatologists have additional methods of removal available in their offices, such as lasers.
- Aldara™ cream should be applied to each lesion nightly for 4-8 weeks in order to stimulate the immune system locally and help destroy the warts. Aldara™ is a prescription medicine.
- Some dermatologists also use other foreign materials such as beetle juice to stimulate a local reaction so the immune system starts to locally fight off the wart virus.
- Tagamet® HB is a prescription oral medicine which has been found to stimulate the immune system. It must be taken by mouth twice daily for several months for best results.