The three most likely warts to affect children are flat warts, plantar warts and common warts and all three are caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV. Young children are even more likely to develop warts because they are still busy growing and they have limited immunity.
In addition, children easily get small cuts and lesions when they are playing or doing physical exercise, leading to breaks in the skin. Cracks in dry skin and wet, softened, fragile skin such as from prolonged water exposure can also allow the virus to invade the skin, causing the skin cells to grow rapidly and leading to a wart.
These are tiny - usually just the size of a pinhead – and smoother than other kinds of warts with their flat tops giving them their name. Similar to the color of your skin and looking like an extra bit of thick, smooth skin sticking up like a disc or a small patch, flat warts can affect any part of the body but usually on the face, fingers, hands, arms and knees (often close to scratch marks or other breaks in the skin that have allowed the virus to enter in the first place). They sometimes come in clusters with as many as a hundred together.
Part of wart treatment for kids is discouraging them from scratching or picking these flat warts because they can spread them through the blood stream to other parts of the body. Although sometimes flat warts will go away on their own, it is always best to treat them as early as possible to prevent them from spreading. If you or your child are prone to flat warts, look at boosting the immune system.
Children of all ages are more likely to pick up this virus - and the discomfort and pain of plantar warts that follows - during the summer months as the virus thrives in warm, moist environments. Examples are shower floors, locker rooms and public swimming areas.
So it is always safer not to walk barefoot in such places. The HPV virus needs to have a point of entry into the skin and when it does, there is thickening and damage to the skin followed by the appearance of plantar warts. These non-cancerous growths form round areas of rough skin with a dry crusty surface with tiny black dots deep inside. As the warts grow, they can become very painful as pressure is applied to them. Those tiny black dots are dried up capillary blood vessels.
It does not take long for a plantar wart to become flattened and painful from the pressure of walking – rather like walking on a small stone. If you are not sure whether you have a plantar wart (as they can sometimes be confused with a callus) just squeeze the lesion between your fingers as if pinching. If this action is painful, you can be 100% certain it is a plantar wart!
The good news is that common warts are not usually painful, appearing as small bumps of hardened skin or strange little growths on the fingers, hands, face or feet. Sometimes they grow around or under the nails, making them more difficult to get rid of. Common warts look like small cauliflowers, varying in color from light grey to yellow to brown or even grey/black. They can be round or irregular in shape and measure anything from 2mm to 10mm across. Sometimes they appear on their own and sometimes in clusters.
Although common warts grow quite slowly compared to other warts, it is still wise to treat them. Left untreated, they can increase in number and size or take up to a couple of years to disappear. Educate your child to wash his hands and skin regularly and if he cuts or scratches his skin, to use soap and water to thoroughly cleanse the area because open wounds are more susceptible to the HPV virus infecting the skin and leading to warts.
Wart removal for kids
- One type of treatment to use for warts – particularly plantar warts – is an over-the-counter salicylic acid preparation available at the pharmacy. Do take care to to follow package directions because over-application of these products can burn the skin. Periodically sand and re-treat the wart. It can take several months especially if the wart is large. Warts can spread, so monitor your child's skin closely and treat warts when they are small. Soak the affected area in warm water for five minutes before applying the salicylic acid. This will enhance the effects of the medication. Remove any loose tissue with a brush, washcloth or emery board and dry thoroughly. It is also important to file away as much of the overlying callus tissue as possible so that the medication can penetrate the wart properly. The prolonged use of this medication is not recommended, especially in infants and OTC treatments should never be used on the face as they could damage the skin.
- Another type of treatment is a commercial preparation containing about 17% salicylic acid and 17% lactic acid - a fast-drying solution that can be applied daily after showering. The preparation is allowed to dry and the wart covered with waterproof tape, which is removed after the next shower or bath. Again, it can take several months to clear the wart with this method.
- Duct tap is one treatment approach where the tape is applied to the wart, which is kept covered 24 hours a day, six out of seven days a week, for six weeks.
- Cryosurgery is a medical type of treatment for warts where a doctor freezes the wart with liquid nitrogen.
- Laser surgery may be used for warts that are particularly stubborn or they can be cut out by your doctor. This latter treatment can be painful and even lead to scarring.
Safe ways to cure warts for kids
Although you can treat common and other warts in children with OTC medications, these tend to be quite harsh, and even painful when applying, so going the natural route would seem to be the best option.
- A warts home remedy such as H-Warts is available online for you to treat all types of warts including flat, plantar and common warts safely and successful at home. The surface of the plantar wart is treated and the root structure is eliminated so there is no regrowth, no burning, no pain and no scarring and because this product is gentle, children will not object to it being applied topically and on a regular basis. Plus because the formula is concentrated with only a few drops needed for each application, parents will find the product very economical.
- Remember that warts can sometimes be hard to get rid of if they are left because the thick layers of skin make it difficult for any medication to penetrate. If you roughen the skin by using a piece of sandpaper first, this will enable any flat warts treatment medication to penetrate more easily.
- For your child's comfort in the case of plantar warts, you might like to use a special pad or doughnut-shaped piece of moleskin around the wart, available from a pharmacy, to relieve any pressure and pain from the wart. This means that children can still run around, play sport and live their normal life in spite of the plantar wart under the foot.
The length of time between when someone is exposed to an HPV virus and a wart appearing varies, but warts can grow very slowly and may take many months to develop. Warts are different in different people. In time, many warts disappear on their own but with treatment, they can usually be removed within a few weeks.
For a healthier all round child, it is always wise to boost their immune system to give maximum protection from viruses and germs alike.