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Dealing with Warts

Warts are one of the most common skin lesions seen in pediatric practices. Warts also drive parents and some kids crazy!  According to one study up to about 1/3 of...

Warts are one of the most common skin lesions seen in pediatric practices. Warts also drive parents and some kids crazy!  According to one study up to about 1/3 of school children have warts.  

Warts are viral infections of the skin which are caused by human papilloma viruses (HPV).  There are more than 100 types of HPV and different types of HPV cause different types of warts. The most common warts on hands and knees are caused by HPV types 1,4, 27, 57.  These are not the HPV types that cause sexually transmitted infections 

Some people seem to be more prone to getting warts than others, and it is not uncommon to see several children in one family dealing with warts. The HPV virus is spread through skin to skin contact or through contaminated objects or surfaces. In other words, they are hard to prevent.  HPV can also have a long incubation period, so when parents ask, “Where and when did my child get this wart virus?”, my answer is typically, “not even the CIA will be able to tell you that”.  

I many cases if the warts are left alone they may resolve on their own in months to years (one study showed two thirds remission in 2 years) ......but with that being said, most teens (especially girls) want those warts to “be gone!” 

There are several different ways to treat warts and one of the most effective is with over the counter (OTC) products that contain salicylic acid.  Salicylic acid acts as an irritant that activates an immune response against HPV.  There are tons of different OTC products and in many studies there was not one product that proved superiority over another, so I would buy an “on sale” salicylic acid for starters. I know from using these on my own children that you have to be consistent and persistent in their use....but it did work. 

If OTC products don’t seem to be working the next step for those who are determined to try and get rid of the wart,  is to head to the doctor who may try freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen or using cantharidin.  Unfortunately, there is typically a little pain involved with these products. 

Like so many other things, sometimes it may pay to just to wait it out and see if the virus just gives up and goes away!

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More