All About Warts and Verrucas on Children

The word warts might conjure up images of wicked witches in fairy tales, but warts often show up on kids too. Find out what warts are and what causes warts on your toddler or older kid’s hands, feet or other parts of the body. We’ve also got some great tips on prevention and wart treatment for kids.

What Are Warts?

Warts are firm, rough-feeling growths on the skin. They’re so common that almost everyone gets them at some time in their life. They are usually skin coloured or look a little darker on dark skin; but they can also be yellow, pink or pale brown. Some may have a black spot in the middle (caused by bleeding)

Anyone can get a wart, but they are the most common in children. Warts can appear anywhere on your kid’s body, but they most often show up on the hands.

A verruca is an often-painful kind of wart that usually grows on the soles of the feet, and less commonly around the toes.

The good news is that warts on children are harmless and usually clear up by themselves with time, although it can take up to several years. Treatments are also available to remove warts, but these can also take months to be completely effective.

In Summary

Warts are extremely common and harmless growths on the skin, which can form anywhere on the body – especially the hands and feed – and usually clear up by themselves within a few years.

What Causes Warts on Children?

Warts are caused by a common virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). It’s worth pointing out that the strain of HPV virus that causes warts on children is not the same virus that’s associated with sexually transmitted genital warts in adults.

HPV thrives in warm, moist places, such as small cuts or scratches on your child's skin. Once the virus finds itself a comfy little niche, a wart may start to develop.

A child can pick up HPV by touching something that someone with a wart has used, like a towel, or through close physical contact with an infected person.

In Summary

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can make its home inside tiny cuts and scratches in the skin.

What Kinds of Warts Are There?

Here are some of the different kinds of warts:

  • Common warts. These small, skin-coloured warts typically grow on the fingers, knuckles and knees. The wart may be raised with a rough, cauliflower-like texture.

  • Plane warts. These are flat-topped warts that often grow on the face or other areas of skin that are exposed to the sun. The colour may be pink or light brown.

  • Plantar warts (verrucas). These warts grow on the soles of the feet and can be painful. They have a hard, grainy texture with black dots under the skin. Walking barefoot in public areas – especially warm, moist environments like a public swimming pool, bathroom or changing room – can cause these warts.

  • Mosaic warts. Warts spread in clusters over an area of skin are called mosaic warts. They’re especially common on the hands and feet.

  • Filiform warts. This is a finger-shaped wart that typically grows on the face, for example around the mouth, eyes or nose.

In Summary

Warts come in all shapes and sizes, from the raised common warts usually found on hands and fingers, to sometimes painful verrucas that grow on the bottom of the feet. Other kinds of warts include flat plane warts, mosaic warts that grow in clusters and finger-shaped filiform warts.

How Do You Treat Warts on Kids?

A pharmacist or your child’s doctor will be able to recommend appropriate treatment, depending on the type of wart your child has. You may not have to do anything to get rid of it, as some warts clear up on their own. Others may require repeated treatments.

These are some of the available wart treatment options for kids:

  • Medication. This can either be an over-the-counter cream or ointment recommended by a pharmacist or medication prescribed by your child’s doctor.

  • Cryotherapy (freezing). One method of wart removal is to freeze the wart off with liquid nitrogen, although this treatment is not usually recommended for children under the age of 7 years old. After this procedure a scab develops and falls off as the skin heals. Several sessions of treatment may be necessary.

  • Laser treatment. If a wart hasn’t responded to other treatments, sometimes laser treatment can be used to zap the wart.

  • Physical removal. In some cases, the wart may be removed in a minor surgical procedure.

In Summary

It isn’t always necessary to treat warts at all. Where treatment is necessary, the options depend on your child’s age and the type or location of the warts. They may include topical medication, cryotherapy (freezing), laser treatment or surgery.

How Do You Stop Warts from Spreading?

To help prevent existing warts from spreading to other parts of your child’s body to another, discourage your child from

  • biting his or her nails

  • scratching warts

  • picking at warts

  • biting or sucking warts.

Other steps you can take to stop warts spreading include:

  • Changing socks on a daily basis

  • Covering the wart with a waterproof barrier like a plaster or special wart paint (always check with your pharmacist or doctor first)

  • Discourage thumb-sucking if your child’s sucking thumb has a wart on it.

How Do You Prevent Warts on Kids?

You can’t fully prevent your child from getting a wart, but there are some ways to help guard against warts or stop warts spreading from child to child.

Follow these guidelines to help reduce the chance of a wart forming:

  • Wash your child’s hands and skin regularly

  • If your child has a scratch, cut, or scrape, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, and dress it while it’s healing

  • Avoid letting your child walk barefoot in public places like pools and gyms – encourage the wearing of flip-flops or sandals

  • Don’t let your child share towels

  • Change your child’s socks and shoes every day and keep his or her feet clean and dry.

In Summary

Help prevent warts appearing by encouraging good hygiene habits such as handwashing and not going barefoot in wet public spaces such as swimming pools.

When Should You See the Doctor?

See your child’s doctor if

  • you’re worried about any kind of growth on your child’s skin

  • your child has a wart on the face or genitals

  • you’re not sure if it’s a wart

  • a wart or verruca is very large or painful

  • your child has a wart or verruca that keeps coming back

  • your child’s wart bleeds or changes in appearance.

The Bottom Line

If your child has warts, don’t be alarmed. Warts can be treated and often disappear on their own. Sooner or later, your child's skin will be back to normal.

In the meantime, do your best to keep warts at bay by encouraging good hygiene habits like washing hands, keeping skin clean and dry, wearing flip-flops at the swimming pool and not sharing objects like towels.

Teaching your child these hygiene basics not only helps prevent warts but may also prevent some other infections and a whole host of other common childhood illnesses from developing.

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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