At some point in your life you might have seen a toad and been told not to touch it for fear of warts. Or maybe someone just mentioned it with little context, because when was the last time any of us saw a real toad in the first place? Honestly if you’re always hitting the daily grind at school or in an office, when was the last time you were like… Out in nature? Anyway, you’re probably wondering if toads actually cause warts or not. Let’s get to the bottom of it.
Like reading about animals, and not warts? Click here for more animal posts from the Sporcle Blog.
What Is a Wart Anyway?
You might recognize one of our old friends, HPV. You know, the sexually transmitted infection (STI) you learned about in health class. There are a lot of types of HPV however–over 100 to be more precise. Some of these HPV types cause warts, some do not. (Not all of them cause the STI either, in case you were wondering.)
Types of HPV aside, that’s the source of your warts. Normally they’re harmless, and fairly common among children. Typically, they’ll resolve themselves, so you’re likely not facing life-threatening issues if you find one on your heel (it’s pretty common to find warts there). There are a handful of ways to treat or get rid of them though, including but not limited to freezing them off. Stubborn warts can get surgically removed.
Of all the types of HPV that cause warts (of which there are a handful), there are also differing types of warts. We’re not going to get technical about it, but we’ll namedrop them.
Why Do We Think Toads Cause Warts?
Like many strange things you were randomly told as a kid and just kind of accepted (like Santa), there’s either a super long rabbit hole of a story, or a very lame one.
In the context of toads, it’s probably the latter. Go look at the little bumps toads have on their back. Which are, you already know, colloquially referred to as warts. They’re not the same, but they look the same, which is probably why they were conflated.
Given what you just read, you now know that warts are caused by HPV. So if toads caused warts, they would need to have some way to pump HPV out of themselves. To our knowledge, this does not seem to be something toads are capable of doing.
Do Toads Cause Warts?
No, toads won’t give you warts. But that doesn’t mean you should go out and start touching as many of them as you can.
Remember the “warts” sitting on the backs of all those toads? They’re covering this handy dandy evolutionary tool called the parotoid gland. These glands can be found on other frogs and salamanders as well.
If you like your random high school biology vocab words, you know that glands secrete things. What do parotoid glands produce? Well, they’re intended to produce things that deter predators. One of those things is neurotoxins. We all know those can potentially get really nasty for you. You know, because they affect the nervous system.
Related post: What’s the Difference Between Poison and Venom?
So, How Do I Avoid Warts?
We figured you might want a quick primer of avoiding warts, because they seem inconvenient. Do know that viruses never really leave your body, it’s the same reason you are at risk of shingles if you’ve had chickenpox.
But for starters, you can get vaccinated against HPV.
Warts are contagious. It’s probably part of the reason why toad warts and wart-warts are so easily conflated. Which means you shouldn’t touch other people’s warts, nor should you wear the clothes or use the towels of those who have a wart (until the wart has cleared up you don’t have to quarantine your sibling for forever). Wearing some kind of footwear in public showers or locker rooms would do you favors as well. We’re specifying these places because HPV does well in humid and warm places–like a shower or pool.
Do you know the difference between frogs and toads? Quiz yourself here.