Watch Out for Warts

Warts are pesky lesions that can show up on your child’s skin year round. They are caused by a virus and are mildly contagious. They are not a reflection of being “unclean.” To decrease your child’s risk of acquiring or spreading warts encourage them to avoid deliberately touching or picking at warts and to wear footwear in public showers.

Warts come in many shapes and sizes. Among others we frequently see and think of “Common” and “Plantar” warts. Common warts often affect the backs of the fingers, toes and knees and may look like a rough, bumpy, thickened area of skin ranging from quite small to over a centimeter wide. Plantar warts appear on the bottom of the feet also as thickened skin. This type of wart may look flatter than a common wart but grows inward and may lead to pain and tenderness on the bottom of the foot and discomfort when walking. Warts may also have pinpoint black spots on them which are tiny blood vessels.

Aside from local discomfort most warts are not overly bothersome and rarely cause any serious medical problem. Warts that do not cause pain or discomfort can be left alone and most will eventually resolve on their own (often in months but sometimes years). Warts that are cosmetically bothersome or are uncomfortable may be treated either at home, in our office or, for harder-to treat lesions, by a dermatologist.

Home Treatment

If you are unsure if your child has a wart or if a wart appears atypical to you it may be best to schedule a visit to see your child’s provider before moving forward with home treatments. For typical appearing common or plantar warts, home treatment is a reasonable option.

There are many topical (on the skin) wart treatment products, often containing salicylic acid, available at your local pharmacy. For these to be most effective first soak the wart for 5 minutes to soften the overlying skin then exfoliate it with a pumice stone or emery board. (Please make sure to have a “wart-only” stone or board so as not to spread the wart virus to others in the family!) After removing the overlying skin in this way apply the product as directed.

Some studies have also found that using “Duct Tape” may have efficacy in treating warts. To use this method prepare the wart as described above then apply a small piece of (silver) duct tape to the wart, leaving it on for 6 days or until it falls off. Once off soak and exfoliate the wart again, leave the duct tape off for 1 night, then repeat the process as needed for up to 2 months.

Local irritation is common with wart treatment but if a treatment causes significant pain, redness or if you have concern for infection please stop the treatment and call our office.

Office Treatment

If over the counter treatment fails or if you prefer to have your wart treated in our office please book a visit with one of our providers to discuss in office treatment options often including scraping and “freezing” the wart. These treatments may sometimes be uncomfortable but are generally quite well tolerated by patients. Also note that warts will not be “removed”, rather they will be “treated”, which will hopefully result in the size of the wart decreasing over time but may require repeat visits for treatment.

As always, feel free to call our office to discuss any questions or concerns or to book a visit with a provider.

Wishing you a healthy and safe summer!

Dana K Oliver, CPNP


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