The best treatment for warts? Leave them alone!

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

You have got to hand it to the Dutch—they know how to put together a good observational study. Want to know what really happens when children get warts? Our friends in the Netherlands have it figured out.

In a study published this month, researchers described what happened to children’s warts over a 15 month study period. They enrolled 1100 children, and examined them regularly for common warts. They also tracked which parents decided to treat the warts, and what factors seemed important in determining whether the warts resolved. What they found:

  • At study entry, 33% of children had at least one ordinary wart.
  • Half of all warts went away within a year, whether treated or not.
  • 90% of older warts—ones that were present at the start of the study—went away within a year.
  • About 40% of families chose to treat the warts, either with OTC or prescription products. Treated warts were less likely to resolve than warts that were simply observed without therapy.
  • Warts were more likely to resolve in younger children, and in non-Caucasian children (though neither of these factors was really very strong.) Whether or not warts resolved was not influenced by their size, quantity, or location.

Bonus: the author’s first acknowledgement wasn’t a drug company—instead, they said “We thank all the primary schoolchildren and their parents for their enthusiastic participation.” Now that’s a classy study!

I’ve written about common warts before, including a review of treatment options—and back then, my first listed treatment was “do nothing.” This study reinforces that advice. There seems to be no treatment that really makes much of a difference anyway.

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