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What's Up With Warts on Children?

Why children get warts, and what parents can do.

Removing Warts With Duct Tape

For instance, covering the wart with duct tape has been shown to work as well as drugstore wart removers, but it takes perseverance.

Place duct tape over the wart and leave it on for about six days. Then remove the tape and soak the wart in water. Gently debride the wart with an Emery board. Repeat the whole process until the wart is gone. It may take a couple of months to completely remove the wart.

If that sounds like too much work, consider over-the-counter wart removers available at any drugstore. (First, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure the growth is really a wart. Sometimes corns and calluses are mistaken for warts.)

Using OTC Wart Removers

Common wart removers available at any drugstore include:

  • Adhesive pads or solutions with salicylic acid.  Clean the area around the wart, apply the solution as directed, and later remove the dead skin with an Emery board or pumice stone. The success rate is about 75%, but the process may take six to 12 weeks, says Silverberg.
  • Solutions with propane or Freon that “freeze” the wart. The success rate is about 75% after two or three treatments, Silverberg says.

Silverberg cautions: Don’t use over-the-counter wart treatments on any wart on a child’s face or lips.

When to See a Doctor About Removing Warts on Children

If OTC wart removers don’t work, you can talk to a doctor about stronger treatments. Doctors generally take two general approaches to wart treatment, says Silverberg. They can destroy the wart or boost the immune system so it will clear the wart.

Doctors typically remove warts in one of three ways:

  • Doctors may freeze the wart with liquid nitrogen, she says, a more potent medicine than found in over-the-counter freezing remedies.
  • Doctors can also give parents prescription-strength salicylic acid to apply to the wart at home.
  • Your dermatologist can also use a laser to destroy the wart. Less often, the doctor may remove it surgically, but this treatment can leave a scar so it’s usually the last resort.

Krol and Silverberg say doctors can build up the immune system to fight warts in a number of ways. Among them:

  • Your doctor may prescribe Tagamet to stimulate the immune system so it "attacks" and clears the wart. This medicine must be taken for two or three months to work.
  • Your doctor may inject the wart with substances such as Candida skin test antigen. Treatment success depends on the ability of the immune system to recognize viral and fungal antigens and "attack" the wart.
  • Your doctor may apply a topical preparation such as squaric acid to the skin to boost immune functioning. Silverberg says the acid is a "universal allergen." Nearly everyone reacts to it as a foreign invader, kicking the immune system into action.

Immune-boosting therapies may take up to three months to remove the wart, Silverberg says.

Reviewed on May 14, 2009

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