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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read

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

Verrucas describe warts that appear on the feet, caused by the virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). They are hard, uneven skin growths, usually skin-colored or white, and generally flat as you've compressed them with walking. For this reason, they may feel sorer than warts on your fingers or elsewhere. You may see black specks in the verruca, usually tiny 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 to know when sharing communal areas such as swimming pools or gym changing rooms where everyone is walking around barefoot. 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 contact 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 waterproof plaster over the verruca or a special rubber sock when swimming.

You can spread the virus to other parts of the body, so avoid touching the verruca and 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 swimming pool areas. Also, rubber socks can be worn to prevent the spread of verrucas.

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.

Many products contain 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 time 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 it to make the acid more effective where it matters.

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

Other products are using the freeze method for convenience, 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 recognize 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 1/2 inch) or you have lots of verrucas
  • The verruca is painful
  • The verruca has changed shape or color
  • 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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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