Warts and verrucas, not life-threatening, not dangerous, but a nuisance, not very pretty and sometimes sore.
They are both caused by human papilloma viruses, and eventually, unless your immune system is suppressed, your body will launch an immune response and they will go. In healthy children or adults, half will go within 1 year and two thirds will have gone within 2 years.
Warts and verrucas (warts on the sole of the feet) are very infectious, and spread easily by close skin to skin contact. They can also be spread indirectly, for example by the area around a swimming pool.
There are lots of different treatments, but it is important to remember that they do not have to be treated; you can choose to just ignore them. In children, if the verruca is not sore in the first place, it seems a shame to make it really sore in the process of trying to get rid of it.
Bananas & duct tape
There are numerous suggestions if you google “wart treatments”. Of course you never know, when a wart goes away, whether it was the treatment or just the fact that it had gone, and there are no scientific studies supporting many of these treatments. The “evidence based medicine” sticklers may knock them, but I certainly think they are harmless, so worth a try. Having treated my own verrucas with banana skins and my son’s large persistent wart with duct tape, I am certainly convinced that they can work!
So here are a couple of little tricks that you can try, for which you do not need a medical prescription:
Duct tape; that thick black tape is not just for your Do-It-Yourself jobs around the house! Stick a piece over your wart or verruca and leave it stuck on continuously for 6 days (changing it for a fresh piece if it is falling off). You can then remove it, wash and file down the lesion with a nail file, give it some air overnight, and start the same process again the next day.
Bananas; sounds even crazier, but the squishy side of a banana skin can be stuck against the wart or verruca using a plaster. Pop in a new bit of banana skin every day. Mine went black within 10 days and then disappeared (but they were quite superficial ones).
Plasters & pastes
Of course there are the more conventional treatments. Many of these are based on salicylic acid in creams, pastes, plasters etc. Two thirds of warts will clear up within 12 weeks of treatment with these, but you do really need to persist, and make sure you file the wart down carefully before applying the acid each time (protecting the surrounding skin).
Liquid nitrogen (freezing it) is another treatment option, but needs to be done by a doctor. This can be very effective, but requires the patient to stay still and does cause the wart or verruca to become painful. If it is a large one, it might require several treatments. Cutting out warts or verrucas is not usually a good idea as it is obviously very painful and they are likely to recur.
So should my child go swimming with a verruca on their foot? The answer is yes, of course. We do not stop children from going to school with warts on their hands, so it would be crazy to deprive a child of the fun of the swimming pool – just cover it with a waterproof plaster, or you can still buy verruca socks (but children can be cruel, so a plaster is more discrete.)
I am afraid, that warts and verrucas, along with nits and threadworms, are part of the rich tapestry of life with children. Good luck with the treatment and do let me know how you get on.
By Susie Tunstall-Pedoe, February 2014