Q: My 9-year-old daughter has a wart on her knee. We tried over-the-counter remedies last fall, but the wart did not go away. As warm weather approaches, she has become more self-conscious of the wart and would like to get rid of it. Are any treatments more effective than others?
Warts are benign (noncancerous) skin growths caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. Warts can occur at any age but are most common in adolescence. Since warts are caused by a virus, they can spread from person-to-person. If left alone, a wart will clear up on its own, but this can take up to five years.
Several over-the-counter wart removal systems are available, with the majority containing salicylic acid. Salicylic acid dissolves keratin in the skin and provokes an immune-system response to the wart. These over-the-counter remedies are effective about 75 percent of the time.
A popular home remedy for warts is the duct tape method: Cover the wart with a small piece of duct tape. After six days, take off the tape, soak the area and remove the top layer of skin with a pumice stone or emery board. After 24 hours, reapply the duct tape and repeat.
The most common in-office procedure is freezing, or cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen. There is some discomfort associated with cryotherapy, but it is a good alternative for wart treatment when over-the-counter options have failed.
The most important factor in the successful treatment of warts is persistence. Over-the-counter remedies may take up to six weeks, and cryotherapy treatments may have to be repeated up to three times before the wart finally goes away.
Keep in mind, you should seek medical care for a wart in the following situations:
• When it’s on the face or genitals;
• If you are unsure if the growth is a wart;
• It’s accompanied by bleeding, redness, or pain;
• If the child is under age 2.