Duct tape does not work any better than doing nothing to cure warts in schoolchildren, Dutch researchers reported on Monday in a study that contradicts a popular theory about an easy way to get rid of the unattractive lumps.
The study of 103 children aged 4 to 12 showed the duct tape worked only slightly better than using a corn pad, a sticky cushion that does not actually touch the wart and which was considered to be a placebo.
"After six weeks, the warts of eight children (16 percent) in the duct tape group and the warts of three children (6 percent) in the placebo group had disappeared," the researchers wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
They said this difference was not statistically significant.
In addition, some of the children who wore duct tape reported itching, rashes and other effects, although none of the children who wore corn pads did.
The researchers, led by Dr. Marloes de Haen of Maastricht University, expressed disappointment with their findings.
Warts are caused by a virus in the skin, and often clear up on their own. They can also be frozen off in a treatment called cryotherapy, or burned off chemically using a strong formulation of salicylic acid.
"Considering the serious discomfort of cryotherapy and the awkwardness of applying salicylic acid for a long time, simply applying tape would be a cheap and helpful alternative, especially in children," de Haen's team wrote.
In 2002, Dr. Dean Focht of Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington and colleagues reported in the same journal that using duct tape on warts worked better than cryotherapy.
The idea of using duct tape to treat warts quickly became common wisdom and is advocated widely on the Internet.
The Dutch researchers said that Focht's team did not actually examine their patients to determine if the warts had disappeared, but called them on the telephone to ask.