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What to Do About Warts

First Aid

What Are Warts?

Warts are common skin infections. They can affect any area of the body, but tend to happen on the fingers, hands, elbows, and bottom of the feet. Warts usually don't cause serious problems, so they may not need to be removed.

There are several types of warts, including common warts, flat warts, and plantar warts. They can be flesh-colored, or lighter or darker than the skin that surrounds them. Sometimes they have tiny black dots in them.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Warts?

Of a common wart:

  • located on back of hands, around nails, and in the mouth, or at the site of cuts and scratches
  • a small, firm, rough bump
  • can look like cauliflower
  • pink or white soft bumps in the mouth
  • tiny black dots inside the wart

Of a flat wart:

  • located on the face, neck, arms, or legs
  • small smooth bumps with a flat top
  • may be in groups of 20 to 100

Of a plantar wart:

  • located on the sole of the foot
  • pressed into the skin
  • may be painful

What Can I Do About Warts?

Without treatment, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for a wart to go away. Ask your doctor to recommend wart removal treatments.

Most warts can be handled at home. Here's how:

  1. Soak the wart in warm water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Remove dead skin on the wart’s surface by filing with an emery board (that's never going to be used for nails) before applying medicine. Be careful not to file into the normal skin around the wart.
  3. Apply medicine (over-the-counter or prescription) to the wart. Keep the area of the wart covered while the medicine works.
  4. Wash your hands after touching the wart.

Get Medical Care if:

  • a young child or infant has a wart anywhere on the body
  • the wart is on the face, genitals, or anal area
  • the wart becomes painful or red
  • the wart is swollen, bleeding, or oozing pus

What Can Help Prevent Warts?

It's not always possible to prevent warts. But it's always a good idea to teach kids to wash their hands and skin often. If your child has a cut or scratch, use soap and water to clean the area because open wounds are more likely to develop warts and other infections. If a wart develops, make sure your child doesn't scratch the area.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Feb 10, 2023

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