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Warts: A Common Virus

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I see so many kids with warts. Warts are caused by viruses and can be a real nuisance. Because warts are due to viruses they are contagious and may be acquired without a person even knowing where they contracted the virus. It is funny that some people seem to be susceptible to the virus and may get warts recurrently, while other people have never had a wart. I typically see warts in children after the age of three all of the way to adults.

The most common areas to see warts on children are on the fingers and hands, arms, knees, and on the feet. Because they are contagious and could bleed when traumatized and may cause spreading, it is important to not pick at a wart or try to clip them with scissors or nail clippers. Avoid friction, and rubbing, even with lotions or while shaving as this may spread the warts.

For many children the best treatment is no treatment at all as the wart may go away by itself, but it may take months to years for that to happen.

In some cases if the wart is becoming bigger or spreading you may use an over-the-counter (OTC) wart treatment that contains salicylic acid. According to Dr. Margaret Lemak, a practicing dermatologist in Houston, it is important to be consistent when using these preparations. For warts on the bottom of the feet (plantar warts), you can use a stronger salicylic acid (40 percent plasters) and may take several weeks to months for the wart to go away. The OTC liquid nitrogen freezing canisters that have been on the market for several years may be successful in treating a small wart, but at the same time I have seen this cause painful blistering and may be uncomfortable for 24 to 48 hours. I usually do not recommend these and have had little success using them myself.

If these treatments are unsuccessful or the warts are becoming unsightly, it is probably time to take your child to the dermatologist for further treatment. According to Dr. Lemak the dermatologist may freeze and scrape the wart or prescribe a cream that can be used at home.

Warts often recur in the same area so after treatment it is important to continue to be observant for two to three months looking for a recurrence. Earlier treatment in this case is typically more successful.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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