Babies can also become infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). I’ll tell you later about some of the ways a child can catch it. But first, let’s look at the symptoms of HPV in babies and how you can determine if your child has the virus.
How can you tell if a baby has the human papillomavirus?
The symptoms of HPV in babies are very similar to those in adults. The main sign is the appearance of warts on different parts of the body or condylomas in the genital or anal area.
The warts can be of various types or shapes, such as filiform, common, or flat warts, and you might find them in intimate areas as well as on hands, feet, mouth, thighs, among other less common areas.
Other signs that might indicate HPV in a child include hoarseness, weak crying, some difficulty breathing, or apparent changes in the baby’s voice.
These signs are associated with respiratory papillomatosis, which is a proliferation of papillomas in the airway due to HPV.
If you detect any of these symptoms, see a pediatrician to examine the baby’s airway for papillomas.
How do babies get HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, so in some cases, the presence of the virus in babies is associated with child sexual abuse. Therefore, doctors are often advised to look for signs of abuse.
But that’s not always the case. In some cases, transmission can occur in other ways. For example, during pregnancy, in what’s known as vertical transmission.
This can occur if, during pregnancy, you are infected with HPV. In that case, the baby might get infected during labor when coming into contact with warts located in the birth canal. Similarly, the baby might get infected in utero.
With vertical transmission, the baby is already born with the virus and might show warts at a very early age, during the neonatal stage, which includes the first month of life, since their immune system is not fully developed at that point.
On the other hand, if the baby shows warts much later after birth, meaning several months or even years later, it might not be due to vertical transmission or a case of sexual abuse, but rather to family transmission.
For instance, if a person with warts on their hands changes the baby’s diaper without proper hygiene, the warts could come into contact with the baby, transmitting the virus.
Family transmission might also happen during bathing. This type of transmission is less common, but it’s still a possible way for babies to get the virus.
What if a baby has HPV?
If you’ve noticed warts or condylomas on your baby’s body, then you’re probably aware that they might have HPV, and now you know some of the possible ways they got it.
Naturally, you’d be concerned about your baby’s health. However, there’s no need to worry; in most cases, HPV is an infection that doesn’t cause complications or health issues for those who have it.
And while the infection can be a bit trickier to manage in babies because their immune system is still immature, usually over time, and thanks to the maturation of the immune system, the infection begins to recede, warts disappear, and within a couple of years, the baby is cured.
The most significant complications associated with infant papilloma relate to excessive wart growth in areas like the larynx.
These warts can complicate breathing or swallowing by obstructing airflow or food passage, which is precisely what happens in respiratory papillomatosis, which I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
However, it’s worth noting that these are rare complications, especially with in utero vertical transmission since, at birth, the baby already has an immune response against the virus, having HPV antibodies, so they can fight it off more efficiently.
In cases where this complication arises, surgical intervention is needed to reduce the warts and widen the larynx and/or esophagus, allowing air or food to pass.
But, as I mentioned earlier, after some time, warts usually disappear on their own.
According to a study by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, in babies who had vertical transmission of HPV and showed colonization in the oropharynx, the colonization rate dropped from 58.24% to only 5.66% after 2 years of monitoring. Demonstrating that, in most cases, the infection resolves on its own as the child grows.
How is HPV treated in babies?
The human papillomavirus does not have a cure. If there are no complications like papillomatosis, nothing more needs to be done other than caring for the baby, feeding them well, protecting them from other infections, and letting their immune system work.
If papillomatosis occurs with its characteristic signs of airway or digestive obstruction, surgical intervention will be required to remove the warts.
And if warts reappear frequently, the doctor might also prescribe an antiviral drug, such as cidofovir.
Similarly, warts can be treated with laser therapy. And though it’s rare for papillomatosis to lead to cancerous processes, the doctor might prescribe an antiangiogenic agent used against cancer, called bevacizumab, to cut off the papillomas’ blood supply, causing them to shrink.
Finally… what should you do if you have HPV?
Here were some tips on how to deal with your baby’s HPV. However, if you are the one suffering from HPV and/or warts, it won’t be resolved just with creams or surgical procedures.
What you need to do is GET RID OF THE ROOT of the problem.
For that reason, I recommend you to look into Dr. Kirkland's story and how he was able to cure HPV and get rid of warts for good.
I wish you great success in your recovery!
Medically reviewed by Dr. Amy Wilson. Dr. Amy Wilson, born in the United States, obtained her medical degree from Lincoln University School of Medicine. Specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, she’s dedicated 15 years to women’s health, becoming a distinguished gynecologist and serving in various U.S. medical institutions.