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Veruccas: what the heck are they anyway?

Hands up who remembers the verruca sock of shame from primary school swimming lessons? Y’know, those random, white plastic socks, that informed *everyone* you had something icky on your foot.

If you get a verruca now though and you don’t regularly hang out at the swimming pool, it’s likely that no one need know about it. Phew. But that doesn’t mean it’s smart to ignore it and blissfully pad about with bare feet.

Why? Well if your verruca knowledge starts and ends with the memory of that silly sock, here’s everything you NTK about these pesky foot bumps and what you can do to swerve or get rid of them.

How do I know if I’ve got a verruca?

A verruca is basically the posh word for a foot wart, or “plantar warts” as they’re officially called. You’ll usually find a verruca living on the ball of the foot (the fleshy pad part) and they can range in size from 1mm to over 1cm. They are white in colour, often with a black dot in the middle and grow deep into the skin. They appear as a flat or slightly raised circle, with thicker harder skin around the edge and softer skin in the middle. Verrucas are pretty harmless, but sometimes can be painful when you put your body weight on them to walk.

So, what causes them?

You catch them, babes. A skin infection from a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), causes verrucas. This viral infection is spread through skin contact with contaminated surfaces – such as showers, school changing rooms, swimming pool edges or bathroom floors. Anywhere where someone with a verruca has walked barefoot and shed the infected skin-cells onto the floor, is a verruca risk zone. This sounds gross, but verrucas are pretty common so there’s no need to freak out if you do happen to get one.

When your immune system is weakened, such as when you’re tired, sick, or a little run down, you’re also more prone catching a verruca. If you come into contact with a contaminated surface and you have cuts or abrasions on your feet, it’s also more likely that’ll you’ll get one.

Keep your feet clean and dry, and change your socks daily, remembering to wash your hands really well after touching a verruca as occasionally they can be spread to other parts of the body. Whenever you go barefoot, don’t forget to cover your verruca with a plaster to avoid passing it on to others.

How do I get rid of them?

Often, verrucas will clear up by themselves but this can take a while and unless you’re going to keep your foot covered like, all of the time (remember they’re contagious) there’s a chance that you’ll pass them on to your friends and family. Not cool.

Also, ignoring a verruca can make it harder to eventually remove, so it’s best to get it sorted as soon as you spot one.

So how do you do that? First things first, you should never, ever, try to get rid of a verruca yourself by going at it with a sharp object. Ouch. They may look teeny weeny, but verrucas need to be treated properly with over-the-counter gel, skin paint or medicated plasters that contain salicylic acid. Before using these you should soak the verruca in warm water for a few minutes to soften it, apply Vaseline around to protect it, and gently file down the verruca first with a nail file (FYI, you need to throw this away straight after so maybe don’t use your fave).

See your GP if you’ve got a verruca that just won’t go away. Freezing it with liquid nitrogen might be the solution for a super-stubborn verruca, but only after you’ve tried treatments from the chemist first.

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Image: Katie Edmunds

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