Warts, ewww!

Q:  My son, age 4, has multiple warts on his feet! What’s causing this and what do we need to do? 

A: Warts are caused by a virus (human papillomavirus). They can occur on any part of the skin on the body, but are most commonly seen on the hands, feet, knees and elbows. They’re very common in children. They can be spread from person to person by common touching of the wart. 

The short and easy answer is that you don’t need to do anything. Up to two-thirds of warts will go away on their own within two years. However, after the first wart is noticed, more may appear and/or the ones that are present may get bigger during that two-year period. 

If treatment or removal is desired, there are a variety of treatment options with or without a prescription or physician involvement. Over-the-counter treatments typically include salicylic acid as the active ingredient, which acts as a local irritant of the skin. The medication’s goal is to destroy the wart, but it may also irritate neighboring healthy skin. Treatment options in the clinic include liquid-nitrogen cryotherapy (freezing), a variety of topical medications that either irritate the surface of the skin or stimulate the immune system or surgical removal/destruction of the wart. 

The best treatment option depends on the location, size, number of warts, as well as the age of the patient and their overall health status. Consult your pediatrician for the best option for your son.