What to do About Warts

| by The Pediatric Insider

The Pediatric Insider

© 2011 Roy Benaroch, MD

Allison wants to know: “What do you do for warts on young children (say, 6 years old)? Can you use over the counter remedies?”

You could, sure, but they don’t work very well. Come to think of it, nothing else works really well either. So, sure, give the OTCs a try.

Warts are annoying little bumps, most often found on hands and feet. Though they’re triggered by a virus, they’re not really considered contagious—children with warts, for instance, are not instructed to stay home from school. That’s because virtually all of us have already been infected with numerous common wart viruses, even if we don’t have any warts. Why do some people get warts, and some not, even though we’ve all got the virus? No one knows.

Children are more susceptible to warts than adults, but there is a bright side: most warts in children will go away on their own, whether treated or not. So, naturally, there are probably a hundred or more approaches that are commonly tried. Here’s a list of 50 home remedies to get you started! Since warts will usually go away in kids, all of these are at least fairly likely to “work,” if you wait long enough. My personal favorite is to rub a wart the a cut half of a potato, then bury the potato in the backyard. Not only will the wart go away, but you might end up with your own potato plant! (Health tip: don’t eat the fresh grown potatoes if they have warts.)

From my point of view, reasonable choices for wart therapy include:

  1. Do nothing. This is especially suitable if the wart isn’t hurting or bothering anybody.
  2. OTC products, like “Compound W”. These can work, but have to be used every day for at least several weeks. Keep the medicine off of surrounding normal skin—just barely dab it on the wart itself. I wouldn’t try this on sensitive areas (genital, face) at any age, but for hands and feet these products are safe if used carefully.
  3. The “duct tape method,” described in detail here. The first published study on this had excellent results; followup studies have been less impressive. Still, it’s cheap and safe and painless.
  4. More aggressive doctor-therapies—I am not very keen on these, and in fact no longer do these myself in my office. They can be painful and may leave more scarring and problems behind. Choices tried by doctors include blistering agents (which sometimes trigger a big reaction) and freezing warts (which can be quite painful the next day.)
  5. Off-label but safe medications. These require a prescription, and aren’t FDA-approved for wart removal, but some topicals (imiquimod) and oral medications (cimetidine or griseofulvin) seem effective at least sometimes at quickly knocking out warts. I try these occasionally, when there are many warts of when a family has had it with waiting. Get more details from your own doctor, and choose the safest alternative.

Annoying they may be, but keep in mind that warts (at least in children) will usually go away on their own if you just leave them alone. If you must treat warts, choose something safe and easy and painless, at least at first. Patience, honestly, is the best cure.

PS. All of this is about ordinary, common warts seen in children. Genital warts are another matter entirely—they are spread through sexual contact, and can be associated with cervical and other cancers. Genital warts and cervical cancer can be prevented via safe sexual practices and vaccination—more about that here and here.

PPS. I’m putting little clip photos in my posts lately to make the blog look cooler when viewed via an iPad. I choose the froggie today because, well, you do NOT want to see the pics that show up when you do a google image search on warts. Trust me on this.