Warts: What They Are and How to Treat Them

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a virus and can vary in size and appearance. They are spread person-to-person through touch and typically appear on the hands and feet.

Warts fall into three categories: common, plantar, and flat. There are several types, and their appearance depends on where they are growing. They are usually skin-colored and rough to the touch, but can also be dark, smooth and flat. Warts can be large or small, single or in a group.

  • Common warts are usually found on the hands, fingers, and around the fingernails.
  • Plantar warts are usually found on the soles of the feet and may have black dots at the surface. These are typically painful and more difficult to treat.
  • Flat warts may be found anywhere on the body but most commonly occur on the face in children, appearing in clusters.

It is common for warts to disappear without treatment in weeks or months, but they can also last for years. They don’t have to be removed, but if your child’s warts are itchy, painful, bothersome or increasing in size or number, they should be treated.

Treatment for removal can include:

Depending on the stubbornness, it may be necessary to use more than one form of treatment. Talk with your child’s doctor to determine which method is best.

Help your child prevent warts by doing the following:

  • Make sure your child washes their hands well after touching one
  • Encourage your child to not pick at warts, as this can spread the virus that causes them
  • Teach your child not to bite fingernails or hangnails

Open sores increase chances of getting warts, so be sure to monitor any that your child may have.

Contact your child’s doctor if you are interested in removal, and follow up if there are problems afterward, such as infection or if it comes back.

For more information on treatment of warts, download our Helping Hands PDF.

Mike Patrick, MD
Dr. Mike is an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s and host of PediaCast, our pediatric podcast for moms and dads. Each week, PediaCast covers news parents can use, answers listener questions, and delivers interviews with pediatric experts on a variety of topics. Dr Mike is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he serves as a faculty advisor for medical students. On the home front, he is married with two kids: a college-aged daughter and a son in high school. Prior to working in the emergency department, Dr Mike spent 10 years in a busy private practice, a time he says most prepared him for the practical advice he shares on PediaCast. Dr Mike also has an interest in roller skating. He learned to walk with skates on his feet, and his first job (age 10) was as a disc jockey at his hometown roller skating rink. He has also worked as a DJ at two radio stations, experiences which further prepared him to host our podcast!

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