What Causes Warts on a Child's Body?

Medically Reviewed on 7/14/2021
what causes warts on children
Warts are more common in children. Find out why kids get warts and how to get rid of them

Warts are small, firm growths on the skin, caused by viruses belonging to the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. 

Although warts can occur at any age, they are more common in children than adults. This is because children are more likely to get cuts and scrapes that allow the virus to enter their bodies. 

HPV viruses that cause warts can spread through physical contact or by touching items that have been touched by someone with warts. Touching or picking on warts may cause them to spread from one side of the body to another. Warts may be sexually transmitted too. In this case, they may appear on the genital area (genital warts).

What are signs and symptoms of warts?

Warts can occur anywhere on the body, although they are quite common on the hands, feet, face, and near the knees. They may appear smooth or have a rough surface. 

While warts are generally painless, they may cause pain if they form the pressure points, such as the soles of the feet (plantar warts). 

Symptoms vary depending on the type of wart. Different types of warts include:

  • Common warts: Typically have a rough surface and appear grayish-yellow or brown. They are usually seen on the fingers, face, elbows, or knees.
  • Plantar and palmar warts: May be seen on the palm (palmar warts) or the soles (plantar warts). These warts (especially plantar warts) may be painful because they form on the pressure points.
  • Periungual warts: Appear as thickened bumps on the skin around the nails (periungual region). They can cause painful splits or cracks in the skin called fissures.
  • Flat warts: Usually appear on the face. They look like small, smooth growths.
  • Filiform warts: Look like small, long, narrow growths (thread-like or filiform in appearance). They generally affect the eyelids, lips, face, or neck.

How are warts treated?

Warts will usually go away on their own, but they may take months to years to disappear without treatment. 

Your child should be treated for warts if the warts:

  • Cause pain
  • Make daily tasks difficult
  • Make your child feel conscious or embarrassed about their appearance

Treatment of warts largely depends on:

  • Where they are on the body
  • How long they have been there
  • Which type and amount your child has
  • Whether the wart is increasing in size or causing symptoms such as pain or bleeding

Some of the treatment options for warts include:

  • Topical medications, such as salicylic acid
  • Cryotherapy (involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen)
  • Electrocautery (involves applying an electrical current to the wart)
  • Excision (surgical removal)
  • Laser treatment

Your child’s doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications, which can take months to show results. These medications may cause a burning or stinging sensation and must be used carefully because they can damage the healthy skin surrounding the wart. Medications should not be used on sensitive areas, such as the face or genitals, unless recommended by your doctor.

Make sure your child avoids sharing personal items, such as towels, sheets, and clothes, because doing so can spread the virus. 

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Medically Reviewed on 7/14/2021
References
Kids Health. Warts. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/wart.html