A quick Internet search will give you many zany ideas about how to get rid of warts. Various home remedies instruct people to use pineapple juice, baking powder, basil, apple cider vinegar or even toothpaste.
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Online, you’re advised to do the harmless and quirky: Rub the wart with the inside of a banana peel. And the downright dangerous: Burn your wart with a hot match. Soak it in bleach. Poke it with a needle. (Don’t do any of these!)
However, for wart removal that is more likely to actually work, you actually need to visit the hardware store for sandpaper and duct tape, says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD.
“Keep the wart covered with duct tape 24 hours a day,” she advises. “If the tape falls off, you need to quickly replace it. The skin underneath will become macerated – wet, pale and wrinkled – and warts dislike that. Keep it on for two to three weeks, and if the wart looks smaller, then continue using the duct tape until it goes away.”
The use of duct tape may not work for everyone, but because it’s safe and easy to do at home, it’s worth the effort, Dr. Piliang says.
While studies may show varying or modest results, one study, conducted in 2002 by researchers from the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, found that using duct tape actually worked better than cryotherapy (freezing off of the wart) – a medical procedure that can only be performed by a doctor.
Of the 51 patients, 26 were treated with duct tape and 25 were treated with cryotherapy. In the first month, 85 percent of those treated with duct tape had complete resolution of their warts while only 60 percent of those treated with cryotherapy had similar results in the same time period.
Try a double-punch
To help boost results, Dr. Piliang suggests combining duct tape with over-the-counter wart treatments.
“It’s always reasonable to try over-the-counter options like salicylic acid gel, liquid or pads,” Dr. Piliang says. “You can also use salicylic acid and then cover the area with duct tape.”
After removing the duct tape covering the wart, soak the area in water. Then, exfoliate with a pumice stone, emery board or fine-grade sandpaper.
“I like to recommend sandpaper because it’s inexpensive, and you can cut it into small pieces and throw them away after each use,” she says.
Contain the problem
Warts are caused by a virus that can spread to other areas on your body.
“Be very careful when shaving,” Dr. Piliang cautions. “If you have a wart, shaving over it can spread it to other areas.”
The virus can also be passed from person to person. Dr. Piliang cites a study of elementary school children and their family members, which was conducted by Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, Netherlands, in April 2013.
The study found that that having a close family member or a classmate with warts was the biggest predictor of whether a child would develop warts.
For children, warts often go away in a few months, with or without treatment. Adults are more likely to need treatment to get rid of warts.
It might take repeated treatments over the course of several months, but don’t give up — getting rid of warts will keep the virus from spreading.
“If you’ve tried home remedies for a few months and haven’t seen results,” advises Dr. Piliang, “see a doctor.”