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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 4 minutes read

Verrucas are very common, especially in children, and are not harmful. They usually resolve on their own without treatment but certain products can speed up this process.

Verrucas describe warts that appear on the feet, caused by the same virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). They are hard, uneven skin growths that are usually skin-coloured or white, and usually flat as you've compressed them with walking. For this reason, they may feel more sore than warts on your fingers or elsewhere. You may see black specs in the verruca which are usually very small blood vessels. This is also the same virus that causes genital warts.

They may develop weeks or months after coming into contact with the virus. Cuts or broken skin makes it easier for the virus to get in, and this is particularly important in shared communal areas such as swimming pool or gym changing rooms where everyone is walking around bare-foot, and verrucas really thrive in warm moist conditions.

A lowered immune system puts you at higher risk. Children do not have a fully developed immune system which is why it is common in this age group.

The majority of verrucas will heal on their own within a few months but may take up to 18 months. If you want to speed up this process we recommend two options; salicylic acid-containing products that can be purchased from your local pharmacy, or getting the wart frozen off (cryotherapy).

Doctor’s advice

Are they contagious?

Verrucas are contagious and can be passed on by direct skin-to-skin on the affected area or indirectly by surfaces that have come into contact with the virus. Avoid sharing towels, socks or shoes, and wear a water-proof plaster over the verruca or a special rubber sock when you go swimming.

You can spread the virus to other parts of the body so avoid touching the verruca and if you do then wash your hands thoroughly if you do touch the area.

To reduce the chance of catching verrucas you can wear sandals or flip flops in public showers or on swimming pool sides. There are also rubber socks that can be worn to prevent the spread of verrucas as well.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Salicylic acid treatments come in many different forms such as in a gel, cream or even in a plaster and usually take around three months of use to be effective.

There are many products containing salicylic acid such as Bazuka gel, or others that may be paints or medicated plasters. These products do work very well, however for gels and creams the typical expected treatment can take between one and three months to get rid of the wart, and allow healthy skin to regrow and heal.

Salicylic products should ideally be used every night. Care must be taken to apply just on the wart, to avoid damaging healthy skin around the wart. You could try protecting the surrounding skin with Vaseline or other similar petroleum jellies, leaving just the wart exposed and ready for treatment. If the wart has lots of hard skin over the top of it, it's helpful to try to file this down with an emery board or pumice stone before treating, to make the acid more effective where it matters.

Cryotherapy (freezing the wart) is done at some doctor practices or can be done privately. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed onto the wart to kill the wart tissue. It's like a freeze-burn and can hurt a bit afterwards. It can take a couple of sessions of freezing for the wart to fully go, these sessions are usually done a couple of weeks apart.

For more convenience, there are other products using the freeze method now available as a home kit. A cold liquid is applied with an applicator for around 30 to 40 seconds. They aim to create an inflammatory reaction that will stimulate the body to recognise and destroy the wart virus. More stubborn warts or verrucas can be treated up to 4 times on separate occasions if necessary.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have a verruca.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a visit with your doctor if:

  • The verruca is large in size (bigger than 1cm) or you have lots of verrucas

  • The verruca is painful

  • The verruca has changed shape or colour

  • The verruca keeps recurring

The doctor will ask you about your medical history and examine the area. They may prescribe a stronger form of salicylic acid treatment or recommend cryotherapy.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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