How are warts recognised and managed?

Most children will have one or more warts during childhood. Warts are harmless growths on the surface of the skin. Most warts are skin coloured, raised, hard and have a rough surface. Sometimes they are flat, especially when on the face.

Warts are caused by a virus and usually disappear on their own after 6 to 12 months. They are mildly infectious as the virus is spread by direct contact. Rarely warts can occur on the soles of the feet (plantar warts) where they are very painful when walking. Warts can be extensive in children who are infected with HIV. Genital warts may indicate sexual abuse.

Warts are best left alone, especially flat warts on the face. They can be treated by applying wart paint daily. The clear wart paint is applied to the wart, using a tooth pick, and allowed to dry (becomes white). The painted wart is then covered with a piece of plaster for 24 hours. When the plaster is removed the wart should be softened by soaking in warm water. The softened surface of the wart is then gently scraped to remove any loose pieces. The area of skin should be washed well and dried before applying more wart paint. Repeat the process daily until the wart has completely disappeared. Genital warts and warts which do not respond to treatment should be referred to a skin clinic.

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus. Wart paint consists of 1 part salicylic acid, 1 part lactic acid and 3 parts colloidion.

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