Warts are benign growths on the skin caused due to a virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Although a bit unsightly, warts are usually harmless. Children are more prone to infections than adults, and hence more vulnerable to being affected by the virus that causes warts (1).
Normally warts are not painful, but the ones on the feet might pain (2). In this post, MomJunction tells you about the causes, treatments, and a few home remedies for managing warts in general.
Are Children’s Warts Contagious?
Warts are contagious and spread from one child to another through direct or indirect contact. However, not all children who come into contact with the virus develop warts because of better immunity levels (3)
How Do Children Get Warts?
Here are a few ways in which your child might contract the HPV, which leads to the development of warts.
- Touching an infected person may sometimes cause warts.
- If your child uses a cloth or an object that a person with HPV has used, he may be vulnerable to contracting the virus.
- Warts also get transmitted from surfaces of locker room floors, and lockers.
- Children may also get warts when they bite their fingernails or pick at hangnails, where the virus hides and thrives.
- If your child already has a wart, picking or scratching it can result in more warts on the body.
- Children who spend a lot of time barefoot in playgrounds could get plantar warts (3).
Symptoms Of Warts On Kids
Warts do not appear overnight. The virus finds a place to settle on the skin and thrives slowly. By the time it develops into a full-grown wart that is significantly big and visible, it could be months, sometimes a year. Here is how you can identify a wart.
- Warts are pinkish in color and can be shiny, flat or rough lumps.
- They are usually big.
- Warts are usually not painful, but some that appear on the soles of the feet may hurt. They can be itchy too.
- Flat warts may appear on the child’s face and look like smooth bumps on the skin.
- Common warts may bleed if the child picks them.
- Small skin-tag like lumps, called Filiform warts, appear on the nose, eyelids and the mouth.
When to see a doctor?
Generally, warts are not a cause of concern and go away on their own. However, doctor consultation is necessary if:
- Warts are in the genital area, painful or bleeding
- Newer warts are appearing too often.
- Warts look red and infected
Diagnosis of warts is a straight examination of the extensions on the skin. The doctor may:
- Examine the wart.
- Scrape off the top of the wart and check if there are dark colored blood clots, which indicate that the growth is a wart.
- If the doctor is unable to diagnose warts through examination, the doctor may send a part of the wart to the laboratory for biopsy.
Next, we will tell you about the different types of warts.
Types Of Warts
Warts are of two types: genital and non-genital. Some studies suggested that children could also get genital warts from the mother, or an infected caregiver. Though there is no clear evidence, it cannot be ruled out (4)
Common types of warts include (2):
- Common warts appear anywhere on the hands, feet, face, fingers, and arms of the child. These have a rough surface and are greyish-yellow in color.
- Warts on feet are found in the soles of feet and are also known as plantar warts. These form a cluster and have black dots resembling a mosaic tile. These warts might be painful.
- Warts on face are small and smooth outgrowths that are present in groups and mostly occur on the face of the child.
- Genital warts, unlike common warts, are soft and do not have a rough surface. These are found in the genital areas.
- Warts on the neck are also known as filiform warts. These are small, long and narrow outgrowths, and are sometimes also seen on the eyelids and face.
Warts Removal Treatment For Children
There is currently no cure for HPV infections. So, if the warts are harmless and not bothering the child, you can ignore them. Studies have revealed that in 65% of the affected children, warts disappeared in two years. In 80% of the children, they went away in four years (5). These treatment methods aim at removing existing warts and do not guarantee a 100% cure or relief from warts (6).
Also, the treatment will depend on the type of warts and where they are present on the body. Some might even require a combination of treatment methods. So, always consult with the dermatologist to understand which treatment method works best for your child.
Note: These treatments are suitable for cutaneous non-genital warts in healthy children with a strong immune system. If your child has genital warts, then the doctor will make a diagnosis and offer treatment accordingly.
1. Salicylic acid
Over-the-counter patches with different concentrations of salicylic could help in the treatment of warts. According to six studies involving 500 participants (adults and children), salicylic acid had a moderately high effect on the clearance of warts, especially on the hands than the feet, when compared to a placebo (7).
How to: Consult with your child’s doctor to determine the right concentration of salicylic acid to use for your child. First, soak the wart in water for 10 to 15 minutes, and file the dead skin with a pumice stone and apply salicylic acid on it. Repeat this once or twice a day for 12 weeks (3).
Talk to your child’s doctor to determine if this method would suit your child’s condition.
2. Duct tape occlusion method
In a study covering three primary schools in the Netherlands, the resolution of the wart using duct tape was higher when compared to the use of a placebo for treatment (7). However, there might be skin irritations due to glue, so consult your child’s doctor before trying this.
How to: This method is believed to be safe, easy, and practical for parents to use at home. In this method, ordinary, white adhesive tape is wrapped around the wart for a week and is removed to leave the wart exposed to air for a 12-hour interval. This cycle is repeated for four to six weeks.
This treatment option requires clinical guidance. According to a study conducted on 61 patients within the age range of three to 22 years, cryotherapy was able to cure warts in 60% of the total test group (6).
How to: In this method, warts are frozen using liquid nitrogen, and a blister would form in the place of the wart, which will fade away over time. The doctor completes the procedure by dabbing liquid nitrogen on the wart area.
This procedure is said to be painful and can also leave scars, so the doctor might give local anesthesia before applying liquid nitrogen. Talk to your child’s doctor to know more about the procedure and if it is the right solution for your child (8).
4. Other treatment options
Warts can also be treated using other options, which may be either painful for children or have little evidence proving their effectiveness. So, consider these options only upon consultation with your child’s doctor.
- Laser surgery: In this, the wart is destroyed using a laser beam. The method is painful, might need local anesthesia, and can leave scars too.
- Homeopathic medications: A study on 853 people stated that homeopathic treatment was no more effective than a placebo used for treating plantar warts. So, use it judiciously, considering that there is little evidence of it being effective (9).
- Topical ointments: A Cochrane review stated that ointments containing 5-fluorouracil, dinitrochlorobenzene, intralesional bleomycin, and intralesional interferon, which are used for skin conditions, are not commonly prescribed as there is limited evidence to prove their effectiveness (10).
Home Remedies That Might Remove Warts
In addition to the medical treatments, some home-made remedies might help in treating warts. Note that not all these remedies may be as effective as the others, and some have little scientific evidence to back their effectiveness.
1. Garlic: Garlic is said to have antiviral properties and can inhibit the growth of virally infected cells. A study conducted by applying chloroform extract of garlic resulted in the resolution of warts with no recurrence after 3-4 months (6).
How to: Crush a garlic clove, apply it on the wart and secure it with a bandage. Keep it for a day and then remove it for a 12-hour interval to allow air exposure before reapplying. Repeat daily for three to four weeks.
2. Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Apple cider vinegar is acidic and might help in removing warts. However, more research is needed to prove ACV’s effectiveness.
- Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and dab it on the wart.
- You can also stick the cotton ball to the wart with the help of a band-aid and leave it for three hours.
3. Vitamin A: In a case study on a physically active and healthy 30-year-old female, the daily application of vitamin A leads to the replacement of warts with normal skin. However, the study stated that there is a need for further investigation (11). So, consult your child’s doctor before using this.
- Puncture the vitamin-A capsules and apply the oil topically on the wart before your child goes to bed.
- Let the oil soak for a few minutes and remove the excess oil with a dry towel.
- Repeat this daily for 70 days.
5. Aloe vera: Aloe vera is said to have antiviral properties. A study that aimed to evaluate its effectiveness against HSV virus (also, causes warts), suggested that aloe vera showed promising effects without any significant toxicity (12).
- Extract the gel from the aloe vera plant.
- Apply the gel to the wart using a cotton ball every morning. Cover the area using tape or bandage to hold the cotton ball in place.
- Repeat it every day for a couple of weeks.
6. Hot water soak: It is believed that soaking your feet in hot water for at least 15 minutes every day can help get rid of plantar warts on the feet.
A study conducted on 15 patients with their feet immersed in hot water for one to one-and-a-half hours, for six to eight times a week, saw successful results in around half of the study group(13).
- Soak your child’s feet in hot water; you can also add Epsom salt to the water.
- Make sure the temperature of the water is safe for your child.
- Repeat this daily for 4-5 times a week.
7. Fig tree latex: In a study, fig tree latex was found to be beneficial for treating human warts (in adults), although the exact antiviral mechanism of the extract is unclear (14). Make sure your child is not allergic to latex before trying this remedy.
- Apply fig tree latex on warts and let them soak overnight.
- Repeat this 3-4 times a week until you see the results
8. Banana peel: Banana peel is said to have phytochemicals, which might help in removing warts (15).
- Place a small piece of the banana peel on the wart and tape it.
- Leave it overnight.
- Repeat this for about two to three weeks
- Turmeric paste: Studies proved that curcumin present in turmeric has a wide range of antiviral activity (16).So, this might help in removing warts.
- Crush fresh turmeric roots, apply that paste on warts and cover it with a bandage.
- Leave it overnight
- Repeat this for two to three times a week
10. Papaya: Enzymes such as papain and chymopapain in papaya are said to have antiviral properties, which is why it might help in removing warts (17).
- Take one unripe papaya and make a shallow cut on the surface to get the sap.
- Mix the thick sap with water and apply it to the wart twice a day.
11. Fresh basil: Anecdotal evidence suggests that basil could help in removing warts.
Apply the paste of basil leaves on the wart and cover it with a band-aid or tape. Repeat this for a few weeks.
12. Castor oil: Castor oil is believed to treat skin infections and conditions, including warts. So, this might help in removing warts in children too. Do not use castor oil for babies or infants as it can have adverse effects if accidentally ingested.
- Apply a generous amount of castor oil on the wart, soak it properly every day.
- You can also soak a cotton ball in castor oil and tape it to the wart.
Try these remedies for a couple of weeks or more, and the wart could be gone.
13. Tea tree oil: A study suggested that topical application of Tea tree oil was successful in removing warts in a pediatric patient when applied daily for 12 days (18). It is advised that you do a patch test first to check if your child is allergic to Tea tree oil.
- Mix a spoonful of aloe vera gel with tea tree oil and apply the solution on the wart every day.
- You can also apply tea tree oil directly to the skin or tape a cotton ball soaked in tea tree oil to the wart.
Note: You may have to use these remedies for a longer period to achieve the desired result. So, patience is key in treating warts at home.
Usually, warts fade away or disappear sometime after they appear, and without any medical intervention. However, you may try these remedies to help speed up the process. While most of the remedies lack research-based evidence to prove their effectiveness, anecdotal evidence suggests that they work.
Can We Prevent Warts?
There is no guaranteed method to prevent warts. However, you can take a few precautions to reduce the chances of contracting HPV. Remember that these tips will minimize the risk, but not eliminate it.
- Ask your children to wash their hands always after touching damp things or places. For instance, if your child touches the monkey bars that were earlier touched by a child with a cut or bruise, the virus transmits to him.
- Encourage them to wear footwear when they play outside, to reduce the risk of plantar warts.
- If they use a public swimming pool, make them use flip flops when they are outside the pool and in the showers.
- If the child has a scratch or a small bruise, ask them to wash their hands before they clean it with soap and water or disinfectant.
- Do not let the child pick, pinch, or rub warts.
- If they touch the wart, have them wash their hands immediately.
- If one child has warts, let the others not touch it. Prevent children from sharing towels, utensils, and other things.
Remember that warts are harmless skin eruptions. They may be gone in a week, a month, a few months, or may stick to your child for up to two years. Sometimes it can be four. The bottom line is that they will fall off eventually. Try the home remedies or get the wart treated by a medical professional. But do not ‘mess’ with it. Unnecessary meddling with them can make the condition worse, so try to be patient.
How did you handle warts in your child? Tell our anxious moms here.
2. Pediatric Warts; Children’s National Hospital
3. How to get rid of warts; Harvard Health Publishing
4. Y Jayasinghe and S M Garland; Genital warts in children: what do they mean?; NCBI(2006)
5. Kuwabara AM, Rainer BM, Basdag H, Cohen BA; Children with Warts: A Retrospective Study in an Outpatient Setting; NCBI(2015)
6. Michelle M. Lipke; An Armamentarium of Wart Treatments; NCBI(2006)
7. Ran D. Goldman; Duct tape for warts in children; NCBI(2019)
8. Genital Warts in Babies and Children; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
9. Labrecque M, Audet D, Latulippe LG, Drouin J; Homeopathic treatment of plantar warts; NCBI(1992)
10. Topical treatments for skin warts; Cochrane
11. Anca Gaston and Robert F Garry; Topical vitamin A treatment of recalcitrant common warts; NCBI(2012)
12. Fahimeh Rezazadeh, et al.; Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In Vitro Study; NCBI(2016)
13. John LoCricchio and John R. Haserick; Hot-Water Treatment For Warts; Cleveland Clinic Quarterly
14. Bohlooli S1, Mohebipoor A, Mohammadi S, Kouhnavard M, Pashapoor S; Comparative study of fig tree efficacy in the treatment of common warts (Verruca vulgaris) vs. cryotherapy; NCBI(2007)
15. Suraj Premal Kapadia, Pushpa S. Pudakalkatti, and Sachin Shivanaikar; Detection of antimicrobial activity of banana peel (Musa paradisiaca L.) on Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans: An in vitro study; NCBI(2015)
16. Soheil Zorofchian Moghadamtousi, et al.; A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin; NCBI(2014)
17. Debjit Bhowmik; Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Carica papaya; Research Gate
18. Millar BC1, Moore JE; Successful topical treatment of hand warts in a paediatric patient with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia); NCBI(2008)
- Molluscum Contagiosum In Children: Causes And Treatment
- Skin Tags On Kids: Causes, Treatment And Removal Methods
- Skin Rashes In Children: Causes, Treatment And Prevention
- Dry Skin In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Home Remedies