Duct Tape Effective for Common Warts in Children
Applying strips of duct tape over warts in children was found to be more effective than conventional liquid nitrogen therapy (cryotherapy), according to a study in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (2002;156:971–4). While dermatologists have recommended duct tape therapy for years, this is the first controlled study to demonstrate its efficacy.
Warts are caused by a group of viruses, called human papillomaviruses, and may affect 5% to 10% of all children. The highest incidence of warts is usually observed between the ages of 12 and 16 years. Warts appear most commonly on the hands and fingers, although they can affect the skin on any part of the body. Studies suggest that two-thirds of all warts will spontaneously disappear within two years, even without treatment. Conventional topical treatments for warts include freezing (cryotherapy), salicylic acid, podophyllin, and laser surgery. Cryotherapy, the most commonly used procedure is associated with several adverse side effects, such as pain, blistering, infection, and permanent discoloration of the skin. Duct tape therapy is a safe, cost-effective alternative that is well tolerated and eliminates the need for multiple visits to the doctor.
In the new study, 51 young people between the ages of 3 and 22 years were assigned to receive cryotherapy or duct tape therapy for two months. Those using the duct tape were instructed to leave it on for six days and then reapply a new piece of tape. The warts were measured every two to three weeks to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments. Treatments were discontinued if the warts completely resolved.
Duct tape occlusion therapy was found to be significantly more effective than cryotherapy. Almost 85% of the children using duct tape had complete resolution of their warts, whereas only 60% of those receiving cryotherapy saw their warts disappear. The majority of the warts resolved after one month of duct tape treatment, with improvement first noted after two to three weeks. Each child receiving cryotherapy reported pain during the treatment, while only minor skin irritation was reported in those using duct tape.
It is not clear how duct tape works, although some physicians believe it may stimulate the immune system by irritating the skin. Children with an allergy to adhesive material should not place duct tape on the skin.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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