Typically, warts are harmless skin growths. They are quite prevalent, affecting around one in five children.
If you’ve noticed a hard, raised, often opaque lesion on your child’s skin, it could very well be a wart. Before you start panicking, know that warts are often completely harmless, and in many cases, easily treatable.
What are warts?
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus family of viruses (HPV). Once infected with the virus, it may take a year or longer for the wart to appear. They then grow very slowly for months to years.
Warts come in all shapes and sizes, and can appear on any area of the skin, although they are most frequently observed on the hands, feet, knees, and face.
Contrary to what fables and fairy tales suggest, warts are not transferred from toads, but they can spread from direct skin-to-skin contact. Children who bite or pick at their fingernails or hangnails are more susceptible to warts because they create openings for the virus that causes them. A small cut or scratch can make any area of skin more susceptible to developing warts.
They can also be transmitted indirectly through swimming pools and public showers, particularly if your child is barefoot and has open wounds.
Different types of warts
There are four different types of warts.
Common verrucae: Typically found on the fingers, hands, knees, and elbows, a common wart is a tiny, dome-shaped, firm, greyish-brown lump. It has a rough exterior that resembles the head of a cauliflower.
False warts: These warts are about the size of a pinhead, smoother than other types, and have flat tops. Warts may be pink, light brown, or yellow in colour. Most children with flat warts have them on their faces, although they can appear anywhere and in clusters.
Plantar verrucae: Plantar warts are located on the bottom of the foot. Because of their location, these warts can be painful.
Filiform variety: These have a finger-like appearance, are often flesh-coloured, and frequently appear on or near the mouth, eyes, or nose.
How do you treat warts?
It can take anything from a few months to a few years for warts to disappear on their own. If a wart is uncomfortable, interferes with activities due to discomfort, or is embarrassing for your child, a doctor may opt to remove it.
There are numerous methods for eradicating warts, such as:
- Using OTC or prescription medications to treat the wart
- Applying liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart (called cryosurgery)
- Using laser therapy
When deciding on the right treatment, keep in mind that some OTC wart medications involve potent ingredients and should be used with caution. Consult your physician before using any wart medication on your child.