Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They’re spread by direct, repeated skin contact with people who are already infected.
Warts usually appear gradually and are generally painless – except for plantar warts, which can be painful because they grow on the sole of the foot. Common warts can be found anywhere, but are most commonly found on the hands, fingers, feet or face.
Common warts are usually pinkish or flesh-coloured, and have a raised, rough appearance. They form a distinct border with the skin and might have tiny dark dots inside them. Plantar warts often appear flat.
When to see your doctor
You should take your child to the doctor if:
- there are warts on your child’s face, feet or genitals
- the wart looks infected or very red
- you’re in any doubt that it is actually a wart
- the wart has been there for a long time
- the wart isn’t responding to treatment, or if new warts appear.
Most warts will disappear in time, even without treatment.
If your child is bothered by the appearance of a wart, see your doctor – he’ll be able to tell you the most appropriate method of wart removal.
The most effective method of wart removal is the use of liquid nitrogen. Your doctor will apply the solution directly to the wart, using a cotton bud or spray gun – this freezes the top layer of the wart and releases the virus into the bloodstream, so the body’s immune system can fight the infection. The area treated might be painful for a few minutes, and a blister usually forms and drops off within a week. Several applications are usually needed.
Burning (diathermy), which is done under local anaesthetic, is another method of wart removal.
You can also use wart paint (salicylic acid), which can be bought at a pharmacy and applied at home. If you do this, it’s important to prepare the wart prior to applying the paint. First, soak the wart in warm water for 10 minutes, and then rub it with a nail file. The paint should then be applied to the wart, avoiding the healthy skin around it. Afterwards, cover the area with sticking plaster.
Explain to your child that picking at the wart increases the risk of spreading and infection. Chewing on it might lead to warts appearing on her lips or face a few months later.
Unless your child repeatedly touches another child’s warts, he’s unlikely to be infected by other people.
Take care that your child wears thongs or sandals in public showers or changing rooms, as this might be a source of catching plantar warts.