During breakfast, Stacy tried to reach out to the milk carton across the table and spilled some on her hand. Her mom sighed and started to wipe her hand with a towel. And that’s when she saw it and gasped.
That ugly, monstrous thing of a wart on her little angel’s finger! She was terrified at first, but then calmed down and looked at her daughter lovingly, wondering, “why her?”
Warts in children are not uncommon. Thankfully, they are not harmful and can be treated with medication. MomJunction tells you about the causes, symptoms and treatment of warts in children.
What Are Warts?
Warts are benign growths on the skin caused due to a virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). While they are unsightly, warts are usually harmless and painless. In some cases, they may hurt or itch. Kids are more prone to bacterial infections than adults are, and hence are more vulnerable to being affected by the virus causing warts.
Around seven to ten percent people, including children, women, and young adults are affected by the HPV. Of them, 10 to 20 percent are children. Warts are contagious and occur more in girls than in boys. Usually, children between the ages 12 and 16 are more likely to get warts compared to others.
[ Read: Viral Infection In Children ]
Types Of Warts:
Warts are of two types: genital and non-genital. Children only get non-genital warts, as genital warts transmit through sexual intercourse. Non-genital warts can be:
- Common warts that appear anywhere on the hands, feet, face, fingers and arms of the child. These warts have a raised and rough appearance, are pinkish in color and have a white border around.
- Mosaic warts are individual warts that grow together and form a pattern that looks like a mosaic tile.
- Plantar warts grow on the soles of the child’s feet and are flat. Unlike other warts, plantar warts can be painful.
What Causes Warts On Children
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who went and kissed a frog. Instead of getting a prince, she got warts.
Or so the folklore goes. Here is a fact for you: kissing or touching frogs does not give you warts.
But a virus does. Children get warts when they contract the HPV virus from other people or when they touch something infected. Like any other virus or bacteria, the virus grows and thrives in damp and warm places. Warts are contagious and spread from one person 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.
Here are a few ways in which your child can get 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.
- Kids with scratches or wounds on the body are more likely to contract the virus.
- Kids 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 it or scratching it can result in more warts on the body.
- Kids who use public swimming pools and showers barefoot are more vulnerable than those who use footwear.
- Children who spend a lot of time barefoot in playgrounds could get plantar warts.
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 pinpoint a wart.
- Warts are pinkish in color and can be shiny, flat or rough lumps.
- They are usually unsightly and big. Preteens and teens often find them embarrassing, while younger children aren’t really bothered by them.
- Warts are usually not painful, but some that appear on the soles of the feet can hurt. They can be itchy too.
- Flat warts appear on kid’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 Go To A Doctor:
Take the child to your GP or pediatrician if:
- There are warts on the face or genitals.
- The warts are painful or bleeding.
- New warts appear too often.
- The warts are not responding to the treatment.
- The warts are infected, look red or are itchy.
Point to note: If your child has a growth on the skin and you don’t think it is a wart, go to your doctor immediately.
[ Read: Skin Tags In Children ]
If you see the symptoms mentioned above in your child, there is a possibility that they are warts. To confirm the diagnosis, 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 he is unable to diagnose warts through examination, the doctor may send a part of the wart to the laboratory for biopsy.
Wart Treatment For Children:
Ignore them if the warts are harmless and not bothering. Studies have revealed that in 65% of the affected children, warts disappeared in two years. In 80% of the kids, they went away in four years (1). However, the doctor may recommend a treatment plan when warts become painful or if the child is bothered or embarrassed by them.
We discuss how to treat kids’ warts here. However, no treatment procedure guarantees a 100% cure or relief from warts.
One way to get rid of warts is by freezing them, through a procedure called cryotherapy. The treatment involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart and remove it. This is one of the most efficient ways to get rid of warts. However, the process is more potent than the over-the-counter freezing techniques and is best handled only by a professional. The child may need anywhere between one and five applications, depending on the size of the wart and the severity of the infection.
In all, it may take around one to two weeks to eliminate the wart. Freezing of the wart exposes the child’s skin to extremely low temperatures and may be uncomfortable, and even painful.
2. Chemical cauterization or peel:
Chemical cautery or peel is a destructive procedure similar to cryotherapy, except here, a chemical compound like salicylic acid can be used to burn the wart. This is less painful compared to cryotherapy, as it is not cold. However, it is still a painful procedure and is not recommended for kids. The process involves in damaging the wart and mitigating the risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body. It removes the undesired growth in about three to six weeks, which is longer than it takes to treat with cryotherapy.
Any over-the-counter solution that has the recommended percentage of salicylic acid will work for warts.
3. At-home treatments:
The simple at-home treatment for warts involves using of duct tape. Here is what you need to do.
- Put a duct tape over the wart and cover the area for around seven days.
- If the tape falls off sooner, replace it with another one.
- After seven days, wet the area and remove the tape.
- Remove the dead skin from the wart using an emery board.
- Reapply another piece of duct tape and repeat for another week.
You can apply the tape and try it for as long as you want.
[ Read: Molluscum Contagiosum In Children ]
If warts have not responded to any of the treatments discussed above, then surgery could be the way. The surgery usually involves burning the wart using electricity or removing it using a surgical knife. Both the procedures require anesthesia.
5. Homeopathy treatment for warts:
Homeopathy is known to have one of the most effective treatment options for getting rid of warts. The medication is usually oral and takes around three months to get rid of warts. The treatment is generally harmless and has no side effects.
When you are trying OTC methods, or at-home remedies, your child may feel itchy or the area might become red. Consult a doctor immediately.
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 kid touches the monkey bars that were earlier touched by a kid 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 the children from sharing towels, utensils and other things.
Home Remedies For Warts On Kids:
In addition to the medications, warts can also be treated naturally with some of these home-made wart remedies. Note that not all these remedies may be as effective as the others, although they will hasten the process of killing warts.
Garlic has a caustic effect on the wart and can cause it to blister and fall off in just a week. Apply crushed garlic on the wart every day for at least two weeks to see results.
2. Apple cider vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar is acidic in nature and can help in removing warts.
- 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 C
Vitamin C is also acidic and can fight the virus that creates the wart.
- Crush the vitamin C tablets to make a powder.
- Mix a little water to make a paste and apply it on warts.
- Apply a bandage to keep the paste on the wart for some time.
Note that there could be a slight burning sensation in the beginning, but it should subside soon.
4. Baking soda:
Another compound with an acidic nature, baking soda can help fight the virus and eliminate warts from the skin.
- Mix a spoon of baking soda with a spoon of white vinegar and make a thick paste. Dab it on the wart twice a day.
- You can also mix baking soda with castor oil to make a paste. Apply a small ball of this paste on the wart and cover it with a bandage. Leave overnight and remove the band aid next morning.
Repeat either of these steps for at least a week or more to see results.
5. Aloe vera:
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it great for the skin.
- 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:
Soaking your feet in hot water for at least 15 minutes every day can help get rid of plantar warts on the feet. You can also add a little vinegar or Epsom salts in hot water to make it more effective. Clean the feet using an emery board or pumice stone before soaking them in water. Also, make sure that the water is not too hot.
[ Read: Common Skin Rashes In Children ]
7. Birch bark:
Birch tree bark contains salicylates, which effectively remove warts. They are also used in the OTC solutions to treat warts.
- If you are using bark, dampen it a little and tie it to the wart area, with the inner side facing the skin.
- You can also dry and powder the birch bark. Boil the powder in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Soak a cloth or cotton in this liquid and dab the wart with it.
8. Banana peel:
We all know that banana is healthy. But banana peel?
Well, here is news for you: banana peel has a number of medicinal uses. One of them is for warts. The peel antioxidants and potent chemicals that can help dissolve the wart faster. Place the inner side of the peel on the wart and tape it. Leave it overnight and remove the next morning.
Repeat the step for a few weeks. Depending on the size of the wart, it may take a week to a few months to get rid of the wart this way.
Dandelion stem extract has properties that can boost your immune system. Pick a dandelion and break its stem to pour the juice on the wart. This may irritate the wart a little.
Try this method only if you have access to organic dandelions and not the ones treated with herbicides or pesticides.
The enzymes in papaya can help dissolve the dead tissue, which is the wart.
- Take an 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:
Basil leaves have anti-viral properties that prevent the wart from growing. Apply the paste of basil leaves on the wart and cover it with a band-aid or tape. Do this for a few weeks and eventually the wart should fall off.
12. Castor oil:
Castor oil is used to treat skin infections and conditions including warts.
- 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 should be gone.
13. Tea tree oil:
Tea tree oil is yet another herbal remedy that is known for its anti-viral properties. Here is how you can use it to get rid of warts.
- 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.
[ Read: Dry Skin In Children ]
Each of these remedies can help fight the wart-creating virus and alleviate the condition. They hasten the process of eliminating warts, when used with other medications. However, understand that they may not always work for your child.
Remember that warts are harmless skin eruptions. They may be gone in a week, a month, a few months or may stick to your kid 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 kid? Tell our anxious moms here.
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