Curing Warts with Duct Tape

A wacky-sounding warts-be-gone method.

My kids told me they knew how to cure warts.

I scoffed at their silly suggestion.

Then, lo and behold, none other than Harvard Medical School issues a report last week highlighting the wacky-sounding warts-be-gone method that my kids had proposed.

It’s duct tape, and it turns out the fix-it staple has been used as a wart removal remedy for quite some time. My kids didn’t claim they had come up with the wart cure — but they knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who swore by it.

Warts are stubborn bumps, typically found on the hands or feet, and they can be more of a nuisance or embarrassment than anything else. The generally harmless growths are caused by a type of papillomavirus, though not the same type that causes some kinds of cancer. Researchers report that up to 20 percent of children get warts.

During the past decade, a few duct tape wart-removal studies have been published in medical journals such as the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the American Academy of Dermatology’s Clinical Medicine Insights and the Archives of Dermatology. None of them produced conclusive results, although they noted that the method seems to work in some cases.

Harvard Medical School listed the duct tape method alongside commonly used remedies, including cryotherapy (freezing off warts with liquid nitrogen), salicylic acid, laser therapy, creams and injections.

How to “properly” use the duct tape method depends on whom you ask. Usually, it involves applying tape over the wart and leaving it in place for about six days. After the tape is removed, the wart is soaked and then scraped with a nail file or pumice stone before applying new tape to begin another round, repeating until the wart is gone.

Some techniques recommend using Epsom salts, apple cider vinegar or sudsy water for the soaking. Some recommend applying an over-the-counter salicylic acid product to the wart before putting on the duct tape. A friend said the secret is applying a thin layer of clear nail polish over the wart before putting on the tape.

A Chicago pediatric dermatologist told Dermatology Insights magazine that there are two theories for why the technique seems to work: The tape removes dead skin, gradually eliminating the wart virus along with it; or the slight irritation from the tape somehow activates the body’s immune system to attack the virus.

All the studies pointed out that people seeking treatment for warts should contact their dermatologist or personal physician if over-the-counter or home remedies don’t seem to be working.


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