What is plantar warts?

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts in children: Overview

A plantar wart is a harmless skin growth. Plantar warts occur on the bottom of the feet and may be painful when your child walks. A virus makes the top layer of skin grow quickly, causing a wart. Warts usually go away on their own in months or years.

Warts are spread easily. Your child can be infected again by touching the wart and then touching another part of the body. Others can also be infected by sharing towels or other personal items.

Most plantar warts do not need treatment. But if warts cause your child pain or spread, your doctor may recommend that you use an over-the-counter treatment. These include salicylic acid or duct tape. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger medicine to put on warts or may inject them with medicine. Your doctor also can remove warts through surgery or by freezing them.

Plantar warts

Plantar warts are noncancerous (benign) skin growths. They develop on the bottom of the foot and usually appear as areas of thick, tough skin similar to calluses. They can be on any part of the foot. But they cause the most discomfort when they are on a pressure point such as the heel.

The cause of plantar warts is a virus (human papillomavirus, or HPV). This virus is contagious and may be spread from:

  • Warts on another part of the body.
  • Contact with a person who has warts.
  • Contact with a warm, moist environment, where this virus can thrive.

Plantar warts are often hard to get rid of, no matter what treatment is used, and they often come back. But within a few years, warts usually go away with or without treatment. Treatment to get rid of warts may include over-the-counter and prescription medicines or minor surgery.

What are the symptoms of plantar warts?

Plantar warts usually look like calluses on the bottom of the foot. They can be painful when you walk or stand, and may make it feel like you're walking on a pebble.

How are plantar warts treated?

Most plantar warts don't need treatment. But if your plantar warts cause pain or if they spread, your doctor may suggest that you use an over-the-counter treatment or prescribe a stronger medicine. Your doctor may also remove your warts through surgery or by freezing them.

How can you care for plantar warts in children?

  • Use salicylic acid or duct tape as your doctor directs. You put the medicine or the tape on a wart for a while and then file down the dead skin on the wart. You use the salicylic acid treatment for 2 to 3 months or the tape for 1 to 2 months.
  • If your doctor prescribes medicine to put on warts, use it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Give your child comfortable shoes and socks to wear. Avoid shoes that put a lot of pressure on the foot.
  • Pad the wart with doughnut-shaped felt or a moleskin patch. You can buy these at a drugstore. Put the pad around the plantar wart so that it relieves pressure on the wart. You also can place pads or cushions in your child's shoes to make walking more comfortable.
  • Give your child an over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) if your child has pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

Plantar wart

Plantar wart on bottom of foot below toes with close-up of raised and bumpy wart.

Plantar warts occur on the soles of the feet. They look like hard, thick patches of skin with dark specks. Multiple plantar warts can form in a large, flat cluster known as a "mosaic wart."

Reducing pain from a plantar wart

Plantar warts can be on any part of the foot. But they cause the most discomfort when they are on a pressure point such as the heel. You can help reduce plantar wart pain by doing these things.

  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks.

    Avoid high heels and shoes that increase pressure on your foot.

  • Pad the wart with doughnut-shaped felt or a moleskin patch.

    Place the pad around the plantar wart so that it relieves pressure on the wart. Also, consider placing pads or cushions in your shoes to make walking more comfortable. You can buy moleskin patches at a drugstore.

  • Try nonprescription medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to help relieve pain.

    Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20, because of the risk of Reye syndrome, a serious but rare illness. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Plantar warts in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from a wart.
    • Pus draining from a wart.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.