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What are they?
How are they transmitted?
How can they be prevented?
How can they be treated?
Further information

important points
Warts are a viral infection in the skin
Two thirds of warts will disappear without any treatment within two years and without any scarring
Treatments that do not cause scarring, such as wart paints, are the best

what are they?

Warts are very common in children and are caused by a virus infection. They rarely occur in infancy and very early childhood but appear more often as children get older.

They are hard, raised skin coloured spots with a rough, scaly surface. Their size and number vary with new warts forming where skin has been injured. They can occur on any part of the skin, but in children are common on the hands and the knees. Warts on the sole of the foot are called plantar warts. Warts can also appear as small flat skin coloured spots on the backs of hands or on the face.

how are they transmitted?

Warts are a viral infection with the virus entering the surface of skin, especially where it has already been injured. They can be spread through direct contact by touching another person’s warts, particularly if the skin is injured. They can also be spread by indirect contact. The virus often lives in damp places such as around swimming pools or shower room floors and can be caught by walking with bare feet in these areas. Warts can occur around the nails of children who bite their nails or on the lips in children who suck their fingers.

how can they be prevented?

Cleaning baths carefully after use, not sharing towels, and covering warts on feet when swimming or showering will help to reduce the spread of warts. Covering warts with sticking plaster (bandaids) may help to stop children from biting or picking at them.

how can they be treated?

At least two thirds of warts disappear within two years without any treatment and without any scarring. For this reason treatment of every wart may not be necessary.

Over-the-counter wart paints from the chemist are a good start, but need to be applied regularly for several months to clear individual warts. Soaking the wart in hot water before application of the wart paint and then regularly removing the dead skin over the top of the wart allows the paint to enter the wart.

If the warts become painful or worrying, treatment from a doctor may include freezing with liquid nitrogen. However, this is a painful procedure and may not be suitable for young children. Burning, cutting out or scraping warts is a less common treatment for children and may cause long term scarring.

further information

Your Maternal and Child Health nurse.
Your pharmacist.
Your family doctor.
A dermatologist.


© 2002, Department of Dermatology, St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 Australia
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