Warts are annoying and unsightly. Thankfully, they are not dangerous and can often be treated at home. Here is what you need to know about warts and how to treat them.
What is a wart?
A wart is a small growth on your skin, most often on your hands or feet. They are caused by a virus in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family.
You are more likely to get warts if you have a chronic skin condition such as eczema or bite your nails. Children and teens are more prone to warts simply because their immune systems haven’t been exposed to HPV as much and don’t tend to fight the virus off as quickly.
Warts are contagious and can be transmitted by direct skin contact or sharing towels.
When to see a doctor
Most warts don’t require any kind of medical treatment and eventually go away on their own. Occasionally, a wart can become permanent.
You should see a doctor if:
- Warts are painful to the touch.
- You or your child has a lot of warts.
- You have treated warts and they have come back.
- The wart is not going away and is annoying or unsightly. Warts can take as long as two years to clear up, longer in adults.
- The growth is crusting or bleeding.
- The wart is on your genitals, anus, face or lips. Over-the-counter wart treatments can be dangerous if used in these areas.
Pain, crusting or bleeding could be an indication that this is not a wart and that a biopsy needs to be done to find out what is going on. Your doctor may also recommend a treatment to remove a stubborn wart.
How to treat warts at home
In some cases, warts can be treated at home. However, most home remedies for warts do not work. For example, garlic does not remove warts.
- Over-the-counter wart removers. These contain salicylic acid and work by breaking down the top layer of the skin and increasing moisture. Use these as directed, which involves soaking the wart for about 5 minutes then drying thoroughly. Using a rough towel, pumice stone or emery board can make these treatments more effective. Note that if your wart is brown and/or has hair growing from it, it’s probably a mole, and you should not use these products on moles or birthmarks. You should also not use them on warts in the genital or anal area, or on the face or lips.
- Over-the-counter freezing sprays. These kill the wart by freezing the tissue and must be applied directly to the wart. They are only effective on smaller warts.
- Sandpaper and duct tape. This might sound like a quack remedy, but it actually seems to work. Apply duct tape to the wart 24 hours a day, replacing quickly if it falls off. If the wart looks white and soft when you change the tape, gently rub it with sandpaper. Throw the sandpaper away (it may have the wart-causing virus on it).
How to avoid warts
Warts are caused by a virus (or rather, several different viruses) and because of that, warts are contagious. You should not:
- Pick at warts.
- Touch somebody else’s warts. If you are treating a child’s warts, wear gloves.
- Do not share towels with somebody who has warts. Instead, frequently wash towels and clothing worn by somebody with warts.
- Keep foot warts as dry as possible.
- Do not go barefoot in public showers (including campground showers), in locker rooms or around public pools.
Warts can often be treated at home. But if the above home remedies do not work or if you have any suspicion a growth may not be a wart, talk to a doctor. If your child has warts and you are concerned about them, contact Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics so we can examine your child’s warts and recommend the best way forward.