Warts are tiny, firm bumps on the skin caused by viruses from the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. Warts are contagious and commonly found in school-aged children. They rarely occur in children younger than 2 years.
Signs and Symptoms
Skin warts are dome shaped with a rough appearance and a yellow, tan, black, brown, or gray coloring. They can appear anywhere on the body, but most often they are found on the hands, including near or under the fingernails; toes; face; and around the knees.
Warts also can occur on the soles of the feet, where they are often flat and painful. Your child may say she feels like she is walking on a pebble. Doctors refer to these manifestations as plantar warts. They may have tiny black dots on them, which are actually tiny, clotted blood vessels.
Human papillomaviruses are spread by close physical contact. The virus often gets into the body through breaks in the skin. Swimming in public pools may increase your child’s risk of developing plantar warts.
When warts occur on the genitals, they are considered a sexually transmitted disease caused by a type of HPV. They are spread during genital, oral, and anal sex with a partner who is infected.
When to Call Your Pediatrician
Let your pediatrician know if your child develops a wart on her face or genitals. If warts persist or spread or if they are painful, ask your pediatrician for medical advice.
How Is the Diagnosis Made?
Most warts, including genital warts, are diagnosed by their appearance. Genital warts can be identified by performing a biopsy that is sent to the laboratory for confirmation of an HPV infection.
While warts will go away on their own without treatment, they can become painful if they are bumped, and some children are embarrassed by them. Your pediatrician may suggest applying an over-the-counter medicine containing salicylic acid to the warts. Prescription-strength chemicals are also available for removing them. Recently, duct tape has been shown to work against warts! If your child has multiple warts or they keep coming back, your doctor may recommend removing them surgically by scraping, cauterizing (cutting away the warts), or freezing them (with liquid nitrogen). There is a good success rate with the use of surgery, but it sometimes leaves scars.
If your teenaged girl has genital warts, she should have a Pap smear to be sure there are no changes in the cells of the cervix. There is a link between genital warts and cancer of the cervix. Warts in the airways are also difficult to treat and often require referral to a specialist.
What Is The Prognosis?
Many warts last for months or years and then go away on their own or in response to treatment. The earlier the treatment is given, the greater the chances are of completely getting rid of the warts.
There is no way to effectively prevent warts.