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Warts: How to Care for Your Child

Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. They can happen anywhere on the body, but are most common on the hands and feet. There are treatments that can help warts go away. Without treatment, most warts go away on their own within 2 years.

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  • If your health care provider recommended medicine to put on the wart at home, follow the instructions included with the medicine.

  • If your health care provider put medicine on the wart while in the office, follow the instructions given.

  • Do not let your child cut, burn, or pick at the wart.

  • Do not try to remove the wart yourself by cutting, burning, picking, or any other method.

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The wart:

  • is painful, or has redness or swelling around it

  • bleeds or oozes pus

  • gets bigger or more warts develop

  • does not go away, or goes away and comes back

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What causes warts? Warts are skin growths caused by an infection with a virus in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. These HPV viruses are different from the ones that cause genital warts.

How are warts treated? Many warts go away without treatment within 2 years. If a wart is painful or bothersome, treatments are available. Ways to treat warts include:

  • using over-the-counter or prescription medicines on the wart at home

  • freezing, burning, or laser treatment done in a health care provider's office

Health care providers often use a combination of treatments. Treated or not, warts sometimes reappear.

Are warts contagious? Yes, warts are contagious. Kids can get them from touching another person's wart. Warts also spread by touching things that someone with a wart touched, like towels and floors. Warts spread most easily into skin softened by being wet or broken (as from a cut).

It can take up to 6 months for a wart to show up after contact with the virus.

Can the spread of warts be prevented? To reduce the spread of warts to other parts of the body and to other people, teach your child to:

  • wash hands and the area with the wart regularly

  • if the wart is on the foot, wear waterproof sandals or flip-flops in public showers, locker rooms, and areas around public pools

  • not share or re-use towels

  • not rub, scratch, or pick at the wart

  • not shave over the wart

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