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What's Up With Warts on Children?

Why children get warts, and what parents can do.

From the WebMD Archives

Children get a lot of warts. Maybe that’s why folklore attributes warts to touching frogs or toads. Forget that myth. Here are the facts on warts that every parent should know.

  • Between 10% to 20% of children have common skin warts.
  • Girls get more warts than boys.
  • Warts are most prevalent in children between the ages of 12 and 16.
  • Warts are contagious, but typically harmless.

"They're uncommon in infancy and as you go along in childhood they become more and more common," says Alfie Krol, MD, president of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology.

While medically harmless, warts bother some children more than others. Some children are embarrassed by warts. Others may be uncomfortable if the warts are on the soles of their feet. As a parent, it’s important to know what causes warts, how to help prevent them, and good treatments for warts.

Causes and Types of Warts on Children

Warts, caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, are noncancerous skin growths. They form when the virus invades the skin, usually through a tiny cut or scratch. The virus causes rapid growth of cells on the outer layer of skin. Warts are usually skin-colored but can be dark. They can be rough or smooth.

Here are the types of skin warts, known medically as verrucae:

  • Common warts are found on the fingers, and the backs of the hands
  • Palmer warts are found on the palms, as the name suggests.
  • Plantar warts grow on the feet, typically the soles
  • Flat warts are typically smaller and smoother than other warts; they can grow in large numbers, even as much as 20 to 100 at a time. Flat warts on children are typically found on the face.
  • Filiform warts look like the kind that cartoon witches get on their chins or noses and stick straight out. They are often found on the face.

Genital warts don't typically affect younger children because they are usually sexually transmitted.

Reducing the Risk of Contagious Warts in Children

The viruses that cause common skin warts are passed from child to child. Once the virus infects the skin, it typically takes several months for the wart to become visible.