Water warts: how do you recognize them and what is the treatment?

A common skin condition in children is water warts. What exactly are they, and what steps can you take if you encounter them? In this blog, we explore the phenomenon of water warts, identify risk factors, discuss potential complications of inactivity, and offer suggestions for natural remedies you can try for yourself.

Water warts, also known as molluscum contagiosum, are skin infections caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus, belonging to the pox family of viruses. They are quite contagious, this is because the virus can be present in the fluid inside the water warts.

  • Direct contact: Touching the warts of an infected person.
  • Indirect contact: Contact with contaminated objects (towels, clothing).
  • Self-contamination: Scratching warts can spread the virus to other parts of the skin.

Children: Young children (1-10 years) in particular are at greatest risk of contracting water warts. . Infection occurs through direct skin contact (playing, exercising) or through contaminated objects (toys, towels, swimming pool). Damaged skin (scratches, wounds) increases the risk of infection. Children with eczema are also at greater risk.

Adults: Less frequent, but possible. Infection can occur through infected children or through sexual contact. Condom offers no protection. In adults with many warts, a reduced immune system may play a role (immune-reducing medications, HIV infection).

The incubation period is 2 weeks to 6 months after infection with mollusca virus and reaches maximum size after 6-12 weeks. They can be recognized as spherical pimples, 3-10 mm in size. They are skin-colored or white, sometimes shiny and flattened on the surface, sometimes with a dent in the center. They usually appear on the trunk, neck and armpits, and sometimes even on the face, especially around the eyelids and may contain several to hundreds of warts. In adults, they are localized around the genitals and anus.

Water Warts, Mollusca Contagiosum

When you scratch it open, a white, moist substance is released. A dry crust then forms and usually heals without scarring, but scarring is possible.

In some cases, water warts can become infected and produce pus. This can occur when the warts are scratched open, allowing bacteria to enter the skin. People with eczema are also at increased risk of infected water warts because the damaged skin is more susceptible to bacterial infections.

In many cases, water warts disappear on their own over time, but they can also spread and persist for a long time. However, scratching can cause them to become infected or leave scars. Healing usually takes 1-2 years.

1. Curretage:

  • Procedure: Warts are removed with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).
  • Advantage: Fast and effective method.
  • Disadavantage: Painful, can cause scarring, not suitable for all locations.

2. Cryotherapy:

  • Procedure: Freezing warts with liquid nitrogen.
  • Advantage: Less painful than curretage.
  • Disadvantages: Multiple treatments required, can cause pigment change.

3. Lasertherapy:

  • Execution: Warts are destroyed with laser light.
  • Advantage: Precise treatment, fewer scars.
  • Disadvantages: More expensive than other methods, not available everywhere.

4. Imiquimod Cream (Aldara):

  • Execution: Cream is applied to the warts. Treatment for children has been investigated. The research was done in 2004 with good effect. An important point to consider is that the number of children tested with Aldara is relatively low; more data is needed to obtain a more accurate picture. This is the last resort for treating children.
  • Effect: Stimulates the immune system to fight the warts.
  • Advantage: Stimulates the own immune system.
  • Disadvantages: Long-term treatment, local irritation may occur.

5. Cantharidine:

  • Procedure: Liquid is applied to the warts, blistering occurs.
  • Effect: Causes blistering, which causes the warts to die.
  • Advantage: Effective for large warts.
  • Disadvantages: Painful, can cause scarring.

6. Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA):

  • Procedure: Warts are covered with TCA solution.
  • Effect: Causes exfoliation and destruction of the warts.
  • Advantage: Fast and simple treatment.
  • Disadvantages: Painful, can cause burns.

7. Salicylic acid:

  • Procedure: Salicylic acid cream or solution is applied to the warts.
  • Effect: Causes exfoliation of the warts.
  • Advantage: Relatively easy to use.
  • Disadvantages: Long-term treatment, may cause irritation.

8. Tretinoin (Vitamin-A acid):

  • Procedure: Tretinoin cream is applied to the warts.
  • Effect: Stimulates cell renewal and reduces the secretion of virus particles.
  • Advantage: Effective for small warts.
  • Disadvantages: May cause irritation and redness, not suitable for pregnant women.

There are several natural remedies that can be tried without a prescription to relieve skin conditions. However, it is important to note that not all remedies have been scientifically proven. Some common natural remedies are discussed below

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for itching and tingling on the skin. It contains acetic acid, which can have an anti-inflammatory effect. To use apple cider vinegar, put some on a clean cotton swab and apply it to the affected skin. Hold the cotton swab in place with a bandage for a few hours.

If you have sensitive skin, you can dilute the apple cider vinegar with a little water. If it causes itching or irritation, remove the cotton swab and wash the skin with water.

Tea Tree oil in combination with Betadine

Tea tree oil and iodine are two other remedies that can help. Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties and can kill bacteria and fungi. Iodine is also antiseptic and can help prevent further infections.

Want to know more about Tea Tree oil

A 2012 study in children with molluscum contagiosum, a contagious skin condition, found that a combination of tea tree oil and iodine could reduce the amount of skin lesions by more than 90 percent.

Before applying tea tree oil or iodine to your skin, it is important to do a patch test to see if you are having an allergic reaction. If no reaction occurs after 24 hours, you can use it safely.

Australian Lemon Myrtle oil

Australian lemon myrtle oil is another essential oil that can be effective against molluscum contagiosum. A small study in children with this condition found that applying a 10% solution of the oil once a day for 21 days could reduce the amount of skin lesions by more than 90%.

  • The natural remedies mentioned are commonly used, but it is important to note that not all remedies are scientifically proven.
  • The aforementioned studies on tea tree oil and iodine in combination with betadine and Australian lemon myrtle oil show promising results, but additional research is needed to confirm effectiveness.
  • It is always wise to consult a dermatologist before trying any new treatments, especially if you are concerned about skin conditions.

By following these tips, you can prevent the spread of molluscum contagiosum to other parts of your body.

Avoid scratching and picking:

  • Scratching and picking can spread the virus to other parts of your body.
  • Open wounds can lead to infections.

Treatment only by professionals:

  • Follow the instructions of your dermatologist or healthcare provider.
  • Treating yourself can spread the virus.

Hygiene measures:

  • Wash your hands after touching the bumps.
  • Use two towels when drying.
  • Keep the bumps clean.

Dry skin:

  • Moisturize dry skin to reduce itching.
  • Itching can lead to scratching and spreading of the virus.


  • Avoid shaving the bumps.
  • Use different razors for infected and healthy skin.

Other tips:

  • Do not share towels or clothes with others.
  • Cover the bumps with clothing or bandages.
  • Avoid contact with other people who have molluscum.

Remember, it is always wise to consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and advice.

Find out more about warts, also known as verruca vulgaris. Warts are a common dermatological problem that affects both adults and children. In our latest blog we take a closer look at what exactly warts are, what the possible causes are, how contagious they can be, and what treatment options are available, including an overview of their pros and cons. Click here to find out more!

Wart Cryotherapy
Day 1 After Cryotherapy
Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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