Where do you get warts from? Not where you'd expect

We are always worried about catching diseases from strangers and crowded places. But in the case of common warts, we really need to worry about getting them from our family and friends, according to a study in Pediatrics released online today.

Warts on the sole of the foot (plantar warts) and the rest of the skin are caused by various human papillomavirus viruses. They are related to, but not identical to the HPV virus strains that cause genital warts and can be prevented by the HPV vaccine. Warts are usually painless unless they're on the soles of the feet or another part of the body that gets bumped or touched all the time. 

In the study, researchers from the Netherlands followed over 1,000 elementary school children for a year or more, and found that getting warts on the skin and foot was strongly related to HPV viruses in the school and home. It didn’t come from naked skin exposures while visiting swimming pools, gyms or other public areas.

Warts have a life cycle on the skin. They appear most commonly on hands and feet, get bigger and more numerous, and then can spread all over the body. Spreading mainly occurs from people scratching their own warts. Within six months, 80 percent or more of warts simply go away.  If warts go away by themselves, there is no scarring left on the skin

Sometimes warts do not spontaneously go away, especially the plantar wart.  Then one of the many available treatments may be given such as over-the-counter 40 percent salicyclic acid pads, a medical practitioner freezing the wart off, or an expensive prescription immune therapy such as Aldara (imiquimod).  Any cure other than spontaneous remission is liable to leave scarring or permanent color changes in the skin especially in darkly pigmented people.

So what is recommended to prevent spreading warts to others? If someone in your house or classroom has warts, keep them covered with an occlusive bandage. It will help minimize others from getting infected by your warts.

It's also always a good idea to encourage kids to wash their hands and skin regularly and well. If your child has a cut or scratch, use soap and water to clean the area because open wounds are more susceptible to warts and other infections.

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