My two-year-old recently developed a wart on her arm. Are over-the-counter medications safe to use? Will the wart be permanent or will it eventually go away?
Warts (the medical term is verrucae) are common viral disorders of the skin, and they are seldom a serious health problem. Warts can occur at all ages, but they are most common between 10 and 19 years of age. They can last a few months or as long as 5 years. 25% will disappear spontaneously within 3-6 months; 65% will disappear within 2 years. Warts can be spread from one person to another; the incubation period (the time between exposure and the time a wart develops) varies from 1-6 months or more. Local trauma promotes their spread, so most warts occur on the fingers, hands and elbows, on other areas of the body that may be traumatized, or on the sole of the foot (plantar warts).
No single perfectly effective therapy for warts exists. Given the fact that many will disappear spontaneously, many warts need no treatment at all. Warts that are painful, spreading, subject to recurrent trauma because of where they are located on the body, or cosmetically objectionable should be treated. Over-the-counter medications can be used, but they generally require 6-12 weeks of treatment. Treatment also should be guided by the age of the child and the risk of scarring of the skin.