Skin tags, also called acrochordon, are tiny soft skin bumps that often appear on skin folds, like in the armpits, eyelids, and the groin (1). The size of a skin tag could range anywhere between 1mm and 2cm.
Skin tags are benign growths. Despite being harmless, some children may not be comfortable with the presence of a skin tag. In such cases, parents may look for ways to remove them.
But what causes skin tags? Keep reading this MomJunction post where we tell you about the causes and symptoms of skin tags on kids, and treatment and tips to remove them.
Skin tags are a collection of blood vessels and collagen fibers surrounded by skin layer (thin epidermis). The causes of skin tags are not entirely known, but the following conditions and situations seem to increase their occurrence.
- Chafing and friction in the skin folds: Some parts of the body with skin folds, like neck, groin, eyelids, and armpits, are susceptible to skin tags (2).
- Genetic disorders: Although rare, conditions such as tuberous sclerosis and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome increase the possibility of skin tags (2).
- Obesity: Obese or overweight people could be at a higher risk because of friction of the skin.
- Chronic problems: Health issues, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, seem to increase the risk of developing skin tags (3).
- HPV infection: Contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection may increase the possibility of developing skin tags (4).
- Defects in body functions: Sometimes, skin tags may be related to defects in body functions, such as impaired lipid metabolism and abnormalities in liver enzyme (5).
The risk factors of skin tags may not always be apparent. It is good for parents to know how to spot a skin tag in kids.
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Skin tags are neither harmful nor painful by themselves. Any pain in a skin tag is often due to friction or when the skin tag twists, causing a blood vessel to clot.
You can usually identify skin tags by their skin-colored or pinkish bump-like appearance. The other signs and symptoms are (6).
- In children, tags commonly appear on the face, stomach, chest, groin, arms, and legs.
- The skin tag could be a bump or have a long stalk to hang from the skin.
- Some tags could be darker than the surrounding skin and appear as tiny dark bumps.
- Skin tags often appear in clusters. If you spot a tag, look for the skin around it for more of them.
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There are no significant tests required to diagnose skin tags in children. A physical examination is usually enough for a doctor to diagnose skin tags. They may check the size and location of the tag to determine its cause. If the doctor suspects the bump to be some other skin condition, then a biopsy may be performed. Biopsy for skin tags is seldom needed.
Based on the skin tag’s size or form, child’s age, and health condition, the doctor may suggest any of the following treatment options.
- Freezing: This technique is also called cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen method. The doctor uses a spray or swab to apply liquid nitrogen on the skin tag. The frozen skin tag is then removed with a pair of medical tweezers. Sometimes, the frozen tag comes off in a few days by itself. There might be a small blister after the procedure, but the recovery will be on its own. (7) (8).
- Cutting: In some cases, if the skin tags are too tiny, then the doctor may use clean, sharp surgical scissors or scalpel to remove the skin tag from the skin gently. However, this may be avoided for children (9).
- Burning: A heated wire is used by the doctor to burn the stem of the skin tag. There is minimal bleeding with this method. But the doctor will decide if this treatment method can be used for the child (10).
- Ligation: It involves tying a surgical thread to the stalk of a skin tag and thus cutting off its blood supply. It causes the skin tag to fall on its own. This procedure may be slow and may only be suitable if the child has a few skin tags.
Most skin tags are painless and harmless, but children may not be comfortable with it. It may prompt many parents to explore ways to remove skin tags at home.
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People apply salicylic acid, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, or garlic to the tags every day until the tag falls off, but there is no scientific backup to prove it.
Trying to remove skin tags at home with nail clippers or other tools, or pastes and lotions may result in infection, scarring, or bleeding.
If your child wants the skin tags to be removed, you may consult the doctor to know about the treatment options.
It is not possible to prevent skin tags. However, children can be taught measures to avoid the factors that increase the risk of developing skin tags.
- Dress the child in clothes that minimize the friction between skin folds.
- Maintain good hygiene to avoid HPV. Washing hands and not sharing towels is also essential. There are vaccines available for a few types of HPV. Speak to a doctor about immunizing your child and other family members if there is a high risk of contracting the infection.
- Proper management of congenital conditions may help in reducing the risk of skin tags.
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Skin tags in kids are not a dangerous condition. Hence, there is no need for your children or you to panic about it. You may talk to a dermatologist to know about the risks associated with the skin tags.
Do you have anything to share about skin tags in children? Do tell us about it in the comment section below.
2. A. Pandey and S. Sonthalia; Skin Tags; National Center for Biotechnology Information (2019)
3. L. Mitchell; Facts About Skin Tags; University of Utah (2018)
4. J. Chanel; Acrochordons; Excela Health
5. A. H. Maluki and A. A. Abdullah; Metabolic Associations with Skin Tags; International Journal of Dematology and Clinical Research (2015)
6. The Skinny on Skin Tags: 6 Questions and Answers; Penn Medicine (2018)
7. Removing Moles and Skin Tags; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington
8. H. P. Goodheart; Surgical Pearl: A rapid technique for destroying small skin tags and filiform warts; Dermatology Online Journal (2003)
9. Mole and Skin Tag Removal; Eastern Virginia Medical School
10. K. H. Gardner; Unsighty Skin Tags? Your Doctor Can Help; Intermountain Healthcare (2018)