Warts are caused by a virus—the human papillomavirus (HPV). These firm bumps (although they also can be flat) are yellow, tan, grayish, black, or brown. They usually appear on the hands, toes, around the knees, and on the face, but can occur anywhere on the body. When they’re on the soles of the feet, doctors call them plantar warts. Although warts can be contagious, they appear infrequently in children under the age of two.
Your pediatrician can give you advice on treating warts. Sometimes he will recommend an over-the-counter medication that contains salicylic acid or even treat them in the office using a liquid nitrogen–based solution or spray. If any of the following are present, he may refer you to a dermatologist.
- Multiple, recurring warts
- A wart on the face or genital area
- Large, deep, or painful plantar warts (warts on the soles of the feet)
- Warts that are particularly bothersome to your child
Some warts will just go away by themselves. Others can be removed using prescription or nonprescription preparations. However, surgical removal by scraping, cauterizing, or freezing is sometimes necessary with multiple warts, those that continue to recur, or deep plantar warts. Although surgery usually has a good success rate, it can be painful and results in scarring. Laser treatment may help. The earlier the warts are treated, the better the chance of permanent cure, although there is always the possibility that they will recur even after treatment that is initially successful.
If a wart comes back, simply treat it again the way you did the first time, or as directed by your pediatrician. Don’t wait until it becomes large, painful, or starts to spread.