Wart Removal: Myths vs. Facts

Despite the fact that warts are extremely common and generally harmless (with the exception of genital warts, which should always be addressed by a dermatologist), most people who develop a wart want to remove it as quickly as possible because of its unattractive appearance. And interestingly, wart removal is a common subject of folklore, urban myths, and superstition. To help you sort through the facts, we’ve taken a look at some of the most common (and, quite frankly, entertaining) myths and facts about wart removal.

Myth: Giving someone your warts will make yours go away.

This myth is correct about one thing—warts are contagious, and can be spread if someone touches your wart (or if your wart comes into contact with another area of your body). But spreading a wart to another person will certainly not have an impact on whether yours vanishes. Before there was enough of a scientific understanding to know this, however, different cultures had many theories about how to “give warts away”:

  • Count how many warts you have, put that same number of pebbles into a bag, and toss the bag over your left shoulder. Your warts will be transferred to the first person who picks up the bag.
  • Take a string and tie as many knots in it as you have warts. Put the string under a stone, and the first person who walks on the stone will get your warts.
  • Rub your warts with a piece of bacon. Cut a slit in the bark of an ash-tree and leave the bacon in the slit, which will transfer your warts to the tree.

Fact: The only proven way to get rid of warts is with professional medical attention.

At Laser Lights Cosmetic Laser Center, our laser treatments are highly effective for removing warts that have not responded to topical treatments. Because warts vary so much in size and type, our experienced providers can examine your warts and determine the best type of laser to use, as well as the number of treatments that will be required. Fortunately, the medical field has progressed enough that we have several effective wart removal methods available and can choose the best one for each patient’s situation, but before this was the case, people were left with mythical remedies like these:

  • Find your grandmother’s favorite dishrag, rub it on your wart, and hide it where your grandmother will never find it.
  • Find a rotting tree stump that has collected rain water. At exactly midnight, put your hand (or wherever your wart appears) into the rainwater and repeat a specific rhyme. Take eleven quick steps away from the stump with your eyes closed, turn around three times, and walk home without speaking. This method was actually described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
  • When a funeral procession passes, wet your index finger with saliva, then rub your wart three times in the direction of the procession.

Myth: You can get a wart by touching a frog or toad.

As we explained earlier, warts are contagious, but they don’t come from frogs or toads. Nor are they caused, as some folklore theorized, by washing your hands in water that has been used to boil eggs, or by the foam of the seashore. In fact, warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). A wart occurs when HPV infects the top layer of skin, typically through an open cut. This is why children tend to be especially prone to warts—playing outside and other activities often give them more cuts and scrapes than adults get.

Fact: You can take steps to lower your risk for getting warts.

While warts may not be 100% preventable (because you can come into contact with HPV without knowing), there are ways that you can lower your risk:

  • Don’t touch anyone else’s wart, and if you have a wart, don’t touch it to any other area of your body
  • Be especially cautious about wart prevention if your immune system is particularly weak
  • Moisture can help warts to spread, especially those on the foot, so don’t go barefoot in public showers, locker rooms, or pool areas, and if you do develop a wart on your foot, keep it dry as much as possible

If you’ve ever had a wart, you may have heard some of the intriguing theories of where it came from or how to get rid of it, and while it isn’t clear why wart removal methods were so captivating to folklorists, what is clear is that warts are now extremely treatable. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss your wart removal, or, to learn more about the cosmetic treatments we offer, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.