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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | August 10, 2016

Warts: Do Your Kids Have Them?

Warts are completely harmless and completely irritating to parents. Why some kids are plagued by them and others are not is the great mystery. Roughly 10-20% of kids get warts. They are practically an everyday occurrence in my practice. Warts are little bumps on the skin with a rough appearance to the skin.

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by a virus, typically from the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the same family that the Gardasil (or cervical cancer) shot is in–which incidentally helps protect against genital warts as well. At this time, there is no cure, just various treatments until the person’s immune system takes care of the virus. The virus doesn’t cause long-term problems.

Are there different types?

Yes. There are all sorts of types of warts. Common warts typically have a dome shape. Plantars warts (often found on the soles of the feet) are usually flat. Warts can have little black dots in the center of the wart, “seeds,” which are actually tiny clotted blood vessels.

How do you get warts?

Warts are spread by direct contact. Like other viruses, the person with a wart touches something and then an unsuspecting person comes along and touches the infected thing. Usually if the skin is compromised in some way, e.g., there is a little cut in the skin, the person is more likely to get infected. So you can directly touch the wart and get infected or touch an object infected with the virus and then get warts. So if you have one kid at home with warts, try to keep the warts covered to prevent spread to everyone else. Have the child with a plantars wart on the feet wear socks all time and spray the shower stall with Clorox after using the shower (to prevent the person showering after him from getting it).

How to treat warts.

There are innumerable treatment options for warts (some much more legit than others). Most of the home remedies (and stuff circulating on the web) focus on getting the body to mount an immune response to the wart. This often involves applying some material/product on the wart and awaiting a response from the body. Many of these options will work, but they just take a long time.

Treatment from a doctor’s office usually involves one of three options:

  1. Destruction: This is usually done with something like liquid nitrogen (i.e., freezing off the wart).
  2. Applying a prescription chemical medication to the wart (i.e., cantharidin or salicylic acid ).
  3. Surgical removal.

Keep in mind that if the warts are not causing problems (mentally, emotionally, physically), it is perfectly reasonable to just watch and wait to see if the warts resolve on their own. 40% of the time, warts will resolve on their own within 2 years (you just have to ask yourself how patient you are).

Who gets them?

Most warts happen in school-aged kids. It is almost unheard of in kids under 2 years and relatively uncommon in adults. Interestingly, more girls get warts than boys. They are most commonly spread in families from kid to kid. So if you’re dealing with warts, be careful not to spread them to everyone in your house.