Duct Tape Gets Rid of Warts

Children Find it Less Scary Than Cryotherapy "Freezing" Treatments

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 15, 2002 -- It's the MacGyver cure -- strapping a piece of duct tape to get rid of warts. In fact, a new study finds it's just as effective as those liquid nitrogen treatments, which upset many children.

"The use of duct tape appears promising as a safe and nonthreatening treatment for children," writes lead author Dean R. Focht III, MD, a pediatric researcher with the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington.

In fact, duct-tape therapy looks to be more effective than cryotherapy, Focht adds. His study appears in the October Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

There are multiple cures for the common wart -- a common childhood problem. The current treatment-of-choice in many pediatricians' offices is cryotherapy -- applying liquid nitrogen to "freeze" the wart. But that has to happen every two to three weeks to truly kill the wart.

That's often painful and frightening, especially for small children. And the result may be icky -- blisters or infection.

Duct tape has emerged as a viable treatment, based on some preliminary studies and anecdotal reports.

In his study, Focht compared standard cryotherapy and duct tape therapy in 51 patients between ages 3 and 22. While 26 patients were treated with duct tape, 25 were given cryotherapy.

Those in the "tape group" -- or their parents -- were told to leave the tape on for six days, and to replace it if it fell off. After six days, they were told to remove the tape, soak the area in water, and rub the wart with an emery board or pumice stone. After 12 hours without the duct tape, they were told to put a new piece on the wart, and continue the cycle for two months or until the wart was gone.

Patients in the cryotherapy group received a standard application of liquid nitrogen on the wart for ten seconds. Patients -- or their parents -- were told to return to the clinic every two to three weeks to repeat the cryotherapy for a maximum of six treatments or until the wart was gone.

The results: duct tape won over cryotherapy; 85% of the duct tape patients were wart-free, compared with 60% of the cryotherapy group.

In fact, the majority of "duct-taped warts" disappeared within 28 days -- while the majority of cryotherapy-treated warts needed two treatments, spaced at least two weeks apart.

The researchers say the duct-tape therapy might work by stimulating the patient's immune system.