More questions about warts – the gift that keeps on giving!

common wart

We’ve received a couple of follow up questions from a BuckMD reader on our last post about warts, and clearly this individual has excellent taste in writing:

Thanks for another great article. I like your writing style.  It almost sounds like the warts are more infectious after treatment than before. Is that true?

Also, one more follow-up question if you don’t mind: when the warts are removed, is the HPV virus still present in the body, or does it go away with the warts?


Who knew warts were such a popular topic!?  We may have to petition whoever’s in charge of these things to make August national wart awareness month.  Anyway, to answer the questions:

The warts are not more infectious after treatment than before.  Assuming a good application, whatever part of the warty skin gets hit by the treatment (freezing, acid) is dead and the virus within it is dead and therefore no longer infectious.  It’s just that the virus may also be on surrounding parts of the skin that look normal and if they aren’t hit by the treatment, then that remaining virus can cause new warts to form.

That kind of answers your second question as well.  The HPV virus is never “in” the body – it only lives on the surface of the skin.  It can be there and never cause a wart at all, and for most people it goes away on its own within 2 years.  So if a wart goes away on its own, you can safely assume that the HPV virus has gone away too.  If the wart goes away because of getting it treated, the virus may still be present on other parts of the surrounding skin and cause more warts to form in the future.

Again, we can offer you lots of effective treatment options at the Student Health Center so if you’re having trouble with pesky, persistent warts, come on in and see us.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University


IMPORTANT update for gonorrhea treatment – if you get the drip, you need a shot

As if you needed another reason to practice safe sex, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just updated their guidelines for the treatment of gonorrhea, an sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  Gonorrhea is one of the most common STIs in the United States and we see it fairly regularly here at the Student Health Center. 

Gonorrhea is a really smart bug – it has become resistant to every medication we’ve ever used to treat it so we’ve had to keep coming up with new options.  Until now, we’ve been able to use oral antibiotic (one you take by mouth) to treat it, but sure enough, recent trends have shown that our latest option, Cefixime (Suprax), is starting to become less effective. 

So now we’re literally down to our last shot – an injectable antibiotic called Ceftriaxone (Rocephin).  According to the new guidelines, if you get gonorrhea you need to get a single shot of Ceftriaxone PLUS an oral antibiotic, either azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline.

We can test and treat you for gonorrhea (along with other STI’s) at the Student Health Center, so if you are having any symptoms like burning when you pee, lower abdominal or pelvic pain, or a discharge from your penis or vagina, come in and see us ASAP.  

If gonorrhea goes untreated, it can cause serious health problems.  In women, it can lead to chronic pelvic pain, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, and even infertility.  In men, it can cause epididymitis, a painful condition that may lead to infertility.  Infection also increases the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV.

Although some people have symptoms, most people do not so it is absolutely critical for you to protect yourself from gonorrhea.  If you’ve never had sex, then you’re in good shape.  If you are sexually active, there are some important things you should do to lower your risk of infection.

·         limit the number of people you have sex

·         always and correctly use a condom

·         get screening lab tests to check for STIs once a year (remember, they often don’t have symptoms)

But this (really very serious) public and potentially personal health issue isn’t just about sexual behavior, it’s about medication behavior.  The more we use antibiotics for any reason, the more opportunities bacteria have to adapt and become resistant to them.  So then we have to switch to another antibiotic, then another, then another, until – like we’re facing now with gonorrhea – we run out of options. 

So believe your health care provider when she tells you that you really don’t need an antibiotic for your cold or sore throat – she really does have your best interests at heart.  And if she does prescribe you an antibiotic, make sure you take it as prescribed and until it’s gone.  Leftover pizza can be a great thing; leftover antibiotics never are.

If you want more information about gonorrhea, you can check out the CDC fact sheet, or come in to see us at Student Health.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Get a Gold Medal for Vaccine Awareness!


Go for the Gold

We all need immunizations (also called vaccines or shots) to help protect us from serious diseases. To help keep our local campus community safe, BuckMD and OSU Student Health Services are proudly participating in National Immunization Awareness Month.

Shots can prevent infectious diseases like measles, diphtheria, rubella, and HPV. They can also reduce the number of students who will suffer from influenza each winter.  But people in the U.S. still die from these and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

It’s important to know which shots you need and when to get them. Visit the Student Health Services website for information on the wide array of vaccines we provide.

Here are some general guidelines for the vaccines you need:

  • Everyone age 6 months and older needs a seasonal flu shot every year.
  • Check your records to be sure your have been fully immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox.

Other shots work best when they are given at certain times.

  • All adults need a Td booster shot every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria, and should consider a Tdap booster to protect against whooping cough as well.  (The “p” in Tdap stands for pertussis, aka whooping cough)
  • First-year students should consider a meningitis shot if they have not had one since they turned 16.
  • HPV vaccines are only licensed up to age 26, and are best received early in your sexual life.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to find out other immunizations you may need. Go to our Events Calendar to get dates and times for our Flu Shot programs, and click on the date you choose to get more information

Here is a comment from a student who came to SHS for their flu shot – the flu shot clinic (was) very efficient and convenient since I did not have to schedule an appointment.”

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

Are warts still contagious after treatment?

common wart

When removing the dead skin after treating a wart with salicylic acid, is that area of the hand still contagious with the HPV virus? If so, how can I reduce the chances of spreading the wart?

Another great question from a loyal BuckMD reader!  And on one of our favorite – and creepiest – topics.  We’ve covered how to get rid of warts and whether or not warts from the hand can spread to more private areas, but we’ve never talked about whether or not they can spread while you’re getting rid of them. 

There are a lot of different treatment options for warts, and while they may differ based upon location and other factors, the goal for most of them is to destroy the warty epidermis (top layer of skin) and the virus within it.  After a treatment, the skin will blister or get irritated and eventually slough off.  That skin is dead and so is the virus within it so it isn’t contagious anymore.  Unfortunately, even though the skin around the area of treatment may look normal, there is often virus still present in it. 

So to answer your question – yes, that area of the hand can still be contagious with HPV virus even after treatment.  Since warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact, the best way to prevent further spread is to keep it covered up in between treatments.

We try to extend the area of treatment to include the normal skin right around the wart to prevent this from happening, but HPV is microscopic so it’s impossible to tell whether we’ve gotten it all.  This is why it usually takes several weeks and multiple treatments to get rid of them.

When dealing with warts, you have to be patient and persistent.  But look on the bright side – while they are annoying, common warts are not dangerous and even if you don’t do anything to them, they’ll go away on their own within 2 years in up to two-thirds of people. 

If you’re having trouble with warts, or any other skin problems, come in to see us at Student Health – we’re always happy to help you out!

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Medical Mythbusters – Does gum really stay in your stomach for 7 years?

photo: wikimedia commons

My belly hurts!

Q: Is it true that swallowed gum stays in your stomach for 7 years?

A:  This myth is definitely false.  The body is very good at digesting material that it can use and passing the rest out in the stool.  It is true that your body is unable to digest the synthetic portion of chewing gum, but it doesn’t stay in the stomach for an extended period of time because the stomach periodically empties into the small intestine.  The gum then moves through the small intestine into the colon and is eventually passed in the stool. 

There are many substances that the body cannot digest that pass harmlessly through our system – for instance, this is why you will often see the outside fiber shell of corn in your bowel movements.  Tougher things than gum will often pass through harmlessly in a couple of days, as any parent of a toddler who swallowed a penny can tell you. 

Of course, if you swallow something that is too large to fit through the various valves and tubes in your guts, it can cause an intestinal obstruction.  So if you swallow a large amount of gum in a relatively small amount of time it can theoretically clump up into a large mass of indigestible substance (called a bezoar) that can get trapped in your GI system.  This medical emergency is very rare, but believe me – it if does happen, it’ll take a lot less than 7 years for you to figure out something ain’t right.

So the next time you’re at a fancy restaurant with a cloth napkin and nowhere to put your gum, you can swallow it with confidence.  Despite what the “old wives’ tale” says, it’ll be out of your system in a day or two.

Adam Brandeberry (Ohio State College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)