The truth about warts

Warts are common, especially in children and adolescents. How are they caught? How can they be avoided? Here are some answers to these questions.

What are warts exactly?

Legend has it that warts are caused through contact with a toad or a frog. In fact, warts are caused by a virus that infects certain skin cells, called human papilloma virus (HPV). Because they are viral infections, warts are highly contagious and spread very easily from one person to another. It is estimated that 25% of the population has observed the appearance of a wart at one time or another.

Verrucae (or warts) generally appear on the hands in the shape of raised papules. Their rough surface is usually dry and greyish in colour, and can be marked by small black spots. They usually appear around the nails, on the fingers, and on the top of the hands. They can also be found on other areas of the body such as the face and back.

Plantar warts, which are found on the soles of the feet, are hard and flat. They can make walking very painful and give the impression that there is a pebble in your shoe. Plantar warts are sometimes confused with corns (callosities). 

How are warts transmitted?

Warts are transmitted from person to person, sometimes indirectly. It often takes several months from the moment of initial contact for a wart to become visible. Some warts can even remain "dormant" for several years. Occasionally, warts disappear on their own, but they also sometimes reappear in the same place as before.

The virus that causes warts is often found in moist environments populated with young people (children and adolescents), like wet floors around pools, public showers, beaches, sports centres, etc. Warts form more easily if the skin is broken, which explains why they are more common in people who bite their nails or who pull on their cuticles.

What can be done to avoid warts?

Here is some advice:

  • Avoid walking barefoot on humid surfaces where there are a lot of children, like pools, public showers or water parks.
  • Use a clean towel to dry your hands. Don't use a towel that has already been used by other people.
  • Wear cotton socks and change them every day.
  • Be very careful if you have a lesion on your skin such as a scrape or cut (to the foot, for instance).
  • If someone close to you has a wart, on the foot for example, encourage them to cover it with a dressing or to wear sandals or shoes to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Also, encourage them to wash their hands with warm soapy water after touching the wart.
  • Examine your feet from time to time to identify the presence of a wart.
  • See a doctor to obtain a diagnosis if you discover a lesion on your skin, but aren't sure if it's a wart.

For information about how to treat warts, read the following text: How to treat warts. We also invite you to speak to your pharmacist for any additional information about warts, their prevention and treatment.

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The truth about warts

Warts are common, especially in children and adolescents. How are they caught? How can they be avoided? Here are some answers to these questions.
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