Warts are a cursed nuisance.

Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), it’s an infection that affects most people at some time in their lives, so it’s not something to be ashamed of.

There are different types of wart, including common (hands & feet), plantar (feet), periungual (under fingernail) and flat (arms and face). Such warts are not easily passed on from person to person, but anogenital warts transmit readily and are reckoned to be the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide, with 1% of the population infected.

Of warts likely to be encountered in everyday life, as writers, we should be cautious about those on our fingers, especially if using a shared computer. They may be hard to pass on, but it does happen. I currently have a common wart on the palm of my right hand. It’s flat in profile, and not painful. That part of my hand barely touches the keys, but all the same, I regularly clean the keyboard with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

My caution comes from seeing preventative swabbing of commonly touched items, such as door handles and electrical switches in homeless shelters. I once knew a young man who taught himself to play acoustic guitar. He had one small wart on his little finger when he began, which soon became fifty warts on both hands, painful enough to affect his work life as a librarian (he was made to wear vinyl gloves), not to mention his love life, as his girlfriend swiftly departed the scene. Friction from the guitar strings caused cracking in his skin letting the virus in. He resorted to surgery, which removed most of them, but some stuck around forever


I’ll refrain from posting images of giant warts and their surgical excision, but stomach-churning photographs are available online. I once cut a wart out of my left index finger (I’m a tough guy!) which required persistence and tolerance of pain, as well as a steady hand. I used a pointed surgical scalpel blade to dig around the head occasionally tugging on it with tweezers. It was deeply planted and when it came free, it had a surprisingly long root, which looked like it could have passed through to the other side of my finger! I looked to see if there was a hole. I burnt the wart in the stove, imagining it screaming! The wound bled like a tap for a couple of hours afterwards. It hasn’t returned.

I’ve been treating my current warty visitor with Tea Tree Oil which is more sensible.

Traditional ways of removing warts include rubbing them with green tea, garlic, apple cider vinegar and the white latex-like juice obtained by cutting the stem of a dandelion. It’s said that rubbing a potato on a wart, then burying the potato will work…probably not, but you might get a crop of potatoes out of it.

Wart charmers have been around for centuries. Usually, they’re aged females and they use various plants rubbed on the warts or even bacon fat, which like the potato is buried. I knew a wart charmer when I lived in the Cornish village of Saint Cleer, who had success at blitzing warts with bacon fat while uttering incantations. She charged a fiver. A surprising number of burly men used her service. I wondered how much the placebo effect was part of the reason it worked: if you believed it was the solution it would be.


A handyman way of killing warts is to cover them with gaffer/duct tape, which has been shown to be more successful than freezing them off:


What has been your experience of warts?

ADDENDUM: A new way of removing warts has been found—ultra-short electrical pulses.


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