What are warts in children?
Warts in children are non-cancerous skin tumors caused by the papillomavirus. Warts are more normal in children than grown-ups, in spite of the fact that they can create at any age.
Warts in children are infectious and can spread to different pieces of the body or to others. There are many different types of warts, with more than 60 types of HPV found. Warts are usually not painful, except when they are located on the feet, and most warts in children disappear without treatment for a long time.
Types of warts in children
Types of warts in children include:
Common warts: Usually found on the fingers, hands, knees, and elbows, a common wart is a small, hard, dome-shaped bump that is usually grayish-brown. It has a rough surface that may resemble a cauliflower head with black spots inside.
Flat warts: These are the size of a pinhead, are softer than other types of warts, and have flat tops. Flat warts might be pink, light earthy colored, or yellow. Most children who develop flat warts appear on their faces, but they can grow anywhere and they can appear in groups.
Plantar warts: Plantar warts on the bottom of the foot can be very uncomfortable and feel like you are walking on a small stone.
Filiform warts: They have a finger-like shape, are usually flesh-colored, and often grow on or around the mouth, eyes, or nose.
Why do kids get warts?
Viruses from the family of human papillomavirus (HPV) (for example pah-pih-LOH-mah-vy-rus) cause blisters.
HPV viruses are similar to other germs. The wart virus loves warm, moist places such as small cuts or scrapes on your hands or feet. Once the virus finds a nice, warm spot on the skin, a wart begins to develop. Warts can grow for several months, sometimes for a year or more before they are large enough to see. So if you develop a wart, you may never know where you came into contact with HPV.
If you touch a towel, surface, or other objects that a person with a wart has used, you can catch HPV. Babies who bite their nails or pick their nails get more warts than children who don’t. This is why it is important to avoid picking, rubbing, or scratching the wart, whether it is on another person or on your body.
Symptoms of warts in children
Warts in children come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They can:
- Smooth and small, or rough and large
- Skin-colored or darker
- Anywhere on the body, but most often on the hands, toes, face, and around the knees
Small blood vessels grow in the center of the wart. Warts in children may look like dark spots. The lines and folds of skin over a wart usually look distorted.
Warts in children are usually painless. If the wart is in an area where your child is pressing, such as the palm of the hand or the bottom of the foot, it could be painful.
Causes of warts in children
Warts in children are caused by a family of viruses called human papillomavirus (HPV). Once infected with the virus, it can take up to a year or more for a wart to appear. Then it grows very slowly over months to years.
There are many different types of warts viruses, and it is possible to become immune to one type but to get other types of warts. Any immunity that does not last for life.
Genital warts are brought about by an alternate family sort of HPV. It is transmitted through sexual contact and can sometimes cause cervical and vulvar cancer. Normal skin warts do not cause cancer.
Warts in children home treatments
Skin warts are harmless. They often go away on their own within months or years. If you are not sure whether your child has warts, consult a pediatrician before starting treatment at home. We may recommend treatment if warts in children are causing pain, spreading, or causing embarrassment. Home treatment is a good place to start. There is no treatment that can cure warts, but they can be removed. HPV can remain in the skin after the treatment. If warts in children come back, we may need to try other treatments.
Over-the-counter treatments are available for use at home. You must follow these safety guidelines when using them:
- Make sure all wart removal tools are thoroughly cleaned after using them
- Do not use over-the-counter wart removers on your child’s face
You can use these two treatments together or separately.
Do not use salicylic acid for more than 12 weeks without consulting a doctor.
- Soak the wart in warm water (up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit on hands/feet) for 5 minutes. You can use a candy thermometer to test the water temperature. Make sure the water is not too hot to avoid burns.
- Scrub / apply to dry, dead skin with a disposable emery board (nail file) or a pumice stone. Make sure it is labeled for wart use only to avoid spreading the wart virus.
- Apply the salicylic acid medication to the dry skin over the wart. Note: If the healthy skin surrounding the wart becomes red and irritated, apply Vaseline to that area. This will help protect it before applying the medicine to the pimple.
- Cover the wart with a bandage or duct tape for 24 hours.
- Repeat steps 1-4 every 1-2 days until the wart is gone for two weeks, then take a week break. You can repeat another two-week course if needed.
- Cut a piece of tape the size of a wart. Apply the duct tape to the wart for 6 days.
- Remove the tape and soak the wart in the water for 5 minutes.
- File the blisters with a sanding pad or a disposable pumice stone. Leave the wart exposed overnight.
- In the morning, repeat steps 1 to 3 again for 2 months (8 weeks) or until the wart is gone.
Nonprescription cryotherapy (freezing)
This treatment is helpful for common warts on the hands and feet. You should not use cryotherapy at home on a child younger than 4 years old.
Follow these steps:
- Spray a mixture of two chemicals into the foam rod.
- Hold the applicator on the pimple for a few seconds.
We can also perform cryotherapy in our office.
Comfort remedies for plantar (foot) warts
Use these tips to increase your child’s comfort:
- Have them wear comfortable socks and shoes that don’t stress the feet. Pads or pillows in your child’s shoes can also help.
- Apply the wart with a donut-shaped felt (sold in our pharmacies and other pharmacies).
- Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. Follow the dosing instructions on the label.
Treatments for warts in children
Medical treatment may be required if:
- Your child has many warts
- Warts keep returning after using an over-the-counter treatment
There are several treatment options described.
Freezing (cryotherapy) with liquid nitrogen
This destroys the wart by freezing the skin. A blister forms around the wart, then the dead skin dries up and falls off within a few weeks. This treatment can be painful. Not recommended for young children. Repeat treatment may be required.
Apply a liquid medicine that forms a pimple under the wart. The blister removes the blisters from the skin after about a week. Then we remove the dead part of the wart.
- Aldara (imiquimod). This cream stimulates the immune system to attack and eliminate pimples.
- Efudex (5-fluorouracil). This cream helps prevent re-growth of the wart.
- This medication is given by mouth to stimulate the immune system to attack and eliminate the wart.
- Candida antigen injection. Injecting a small amount of Candida (yeast) into the wart stimulates the immune system to attack the yeast with the virus that causes the wart. It is effective in treating several warts at once.
Other medical treatments
Includes additional options:
- Burning blisters with an electric current
- Laser wart destruction
- Remove warts surgically
How are skin warts diagnosed in a child?
The healthcare provider will perform a physical examination of your child. A health care provider usually diagnoses warts based on their appearance. He might use a small blade to scrape the upper layers. There may be black dots below the upper layers. These are small blood vessels that may have clotted. Your child’s health care provider may recommend that your child see a skin specialist (dermatologist). A dermatologist may perform a shave biopsy, although this is not common. A very small amount of the wart is shaved off and sent to a laboratory for testing.
- Wear flip flops or sandals in shared locker rooms and showers. Do not walk barefoot
- Wash your hands after touching a wart
- Keep the wart covered with a bandage or duct tape
- Clean any shaving tools that have been used near the wart, such as nail clippers
- Do not shave or shave the wart
- Do not share towels with other people
- Get your child the HPV vaccine if he is old. All children can get the HPV vaccine from ages 9-11. The HPV vaccine protects your child from spreading or picking up warts and other diseases (such as genital warts or cervical cancer) that are caused by HPV.