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FDA warns home wart removal products may be flammable

Freezing off warts at home may cause a fire, the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers.

Over-the-counter, cryogenic wart removers have led to 14 reports of fires, affecting household items and users' skin, according to the FDA. The removers contain a mixture of highly-flammable propane and dimethyl ether gases.

The warning labels on these products clearly state to not use the removers near open flames or when smoking cigarettes. In three of the reports, there was a candle nearby, but for the other 11, there was no obvious ignition source identified, according to the FDA.

"This is extremely concerning, especially because people may not be aware that everyday household items like curling irons and straight irons can be hot enough to be an ignition source for these products," Karen Nast, a registered nurse who consults the FDA, said in a statement.

These cases are often under-reported, Nast added.

In addition to reports of nearby items catching fire, 10 of the patients had injuries like singed hair, blisters, burns or skin redness.

Over-the-counter cryogenic wart treatments are sold under brand names like Dr. Scholl’s, Compound W, Wartner and store brands.

Product instructions typically instruct the user to press the nozzle of the pressurized dispenser to release the mixture onto an applicator. The user then presses the applicator on the wart for the instructed amount of time, and after between three or four treatments (or more for plantar warts on the feet), the wart is supposed to go away.

The FDA says in the reports it received for cryogenic products, the dispenser typically caught fire when it was releasing the mixture.

Other types of wart products sold at stores include salicylic acid, which soften or loosen the warts until they fall off.

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. People typically associate HPV with genital warts, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.

HPV actually consists of more than 100 viruses, and about 90 percent of people will clear the infection without any treatment.

The FDA says if you are unsure if your warts are cause for concern or have questions about using cryogenic products at home, speak to a health care professional like dermatologist. Some doctors may prefer to remove the warts in their office, where they can perform procedures like laser treatments or liquid nitrogen.

"The advantage is that the health care professional has been trained in providing the treatment safely and under controlled conditions," said Dr. Markham Luke, an FDA dermatologist.

If you’re going to use a cryogenic wart remover at home, do so in a well-ventilated area and closely follow the product instructions found on the label.

The American Academy of Dermatology has more information on wart removal.

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