First off, take heart: Though skin warts are unsightly, they are harmless. “Warts are caused by a human virus known as Human Papillomavirus (HPV), but it’s a different sub-type of HPV than the one that causes cervical cancer,” says Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist in Toronto. She explains that warts are contagious and are transferred from skin-to-skin contact, so children can pick up the virus on their hands by touching another child who has warts, or by sharing a contaminated toy. Common skin warts also typically appear on feet from walking in warm, moist areas where viruses thrive, like indoor pools. Skin warts manifest as a flat bump, while plantar warts—which arrive via the same virus, but can be a different strain—tend to be more painful and appear as thicker growths on the sole of the foot.
Kellett says that the body will naturally get rid of the wart over time, but the duration varies depending on the individual. In order to avoid the virus spreading, here are some ways to remove it.
1. At-home remedy
Some parents swear by covering warts with a tool-box staple—duct tape—to kill the virus. The tape irritates the skin, triggering a reaction in the immune system to start fighting the wart. Place a piece of duct tape over the wart for six days, removing the tape at night on the sixth day to soak, exfoliate the area with a nail file or pumice stone. Repeat the process the next morning and continue until the wart is gone.
2. Over-the-counter solution
Wart-removal products with salicylic acid will help the wart fall off and allow new skin to grow. The instructions are easy. Wash the infected area, dry thoroughly, then apply—but avoid touching the surrounding skin due to stinging or burning.
3. Doctor’s visit
A doctor may treat warts with a cryotherapy (freezing) procedure. While Kellett says it’s safe and effective, be warned that some kids experience discomfort or pain from the freezing. Another treatment option uses cantharidin. “This is a safe and painless procedure for a child, where we brush the infected area with medication that we provide in-office, which causes the wart to blister and fall off.”