Adults can easily shrug off a new and unusual spot or fleshy bump they notice on their skin. But most parents would worry over any abnormal growths they find on their child, no matter how tiny and inconspicuous these growths may be.
It is normal for concerned parents to imagine the worst. And the best thing to do is to consult their child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Whether you’re a first-time parent or not, getting professional advice with regards to your child’s health can be the only way to get the assurance you need that everything’s okay.
But it’s also normal if a parent tries to learn what they can through their own research. Misdiagnosing a child is always dangerous, of course. But there’s no harm in simply wanting to arm oneself with the right information. Getting the right information, of course, is key. When it comes to unusual skin growths, there are a number of possibilities. Some of them are easy enough to identify. Skin tags are among these and, fortunately, these growths are relatively harmless.
What is a skin tag?
A skin tag is a benign growth of skin cells that form an extra flap or sac that hangs by a tiny stalk, which is also made of flesh. To set your mind at ease, skin tags are not painful; they are not cancerous; and they pose no serious health risks.
The growth is typically flesh-colored and soft. It also contains blood vessels, so any attempt to remove it will cause bleeding. It can get irritated if it is frequently touched or rubbed against another skin surface or clothing, or is accidentally scratched. If it does become a wound, it can get infected, so proper and timely treatment is necessary.
Skin tags normally appear in creased areas of the body, such as the neck, armpits, and groin.
What causes skin tags?
The exact cause of skin tags is not yet fully understood by scientists, but there are common risk factors that contribute to their growth.
If you are a carrier of human papillomavirus, or HPV, you can pass it on to your child. There are some studies that show a connection between some strains of HPV and the development of skin tags. If the skin tag is caused by HPV, it is important that your child receive treatment right away as the virus is contagious and can easily spread to other parts of the body.
HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection; once you get it, unfortunately, it can remain dormant in your body for a long time even if you’re not showing any symptoms. It does not necessarily indicate an STD, but you should get tested to find out for sure and receive the proper treatment to clear up the infection.
Friction and Chafing
Because skin tags typically appear in skin folds, the most common theory as to why they form is as a result of skin rubbing against skin. This is also why skin tags are common among individuals who are overweight or obese; they have more extra folds of skin that are prone to rubbing and chafing.
Skin tags tend to run in families. If you are prone to skin tags, your child has a high likelihood of also developing them.
Should your child’s skin tag be removed?
Because skin tags are harmless, there is no need to have them removed. If they do get irritated and/or infected, however, your child’s doctor might recommend removal. If your child is of school age and their skin tag is in a visible area such as their neck and is big enough that it makes them feel self-conscious, then you might want to talk to them about it.
If they do express a desire to have their skin tag removed, you can seek the help of a dermatologist or even your child’s pedia. There are also over-the-counter treatment solutions available, but to avoid or at least minimize the risk of scarring and/or infection, you should still get advice from a healthcare professional.
Medically speaking, skin tags can be categorized into two types: common and irritated. Common skin tags are not harmful and do not require removal. They can become bothersome for aesthetic reasons, which is why some opt to have them removed. A red, sore, itchy, and/or bleeding skin tag is an irritated skin tag and should be seen by a doctor.
Skin tag removal options
There are safe and effective ways to remove a skin tag at home, but only if the skin tag is any of the following:
- Not irritated
- Not bleeding
- Not infected
- Only a cosmetic problem.
You can opt for an over-the-counter treatment, such as a skin tag removal cream. Or if you want a natural approach, tea tree oil and castor oil are also common alternative skin tag treatments. These treatments are pain-free, although they take a long time to work. Skin tag removal works by cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to the growth, causing it to eventually die and fall off.
Medical treatment is often recommended for skin tags that are:
- Bigger than normal
- In a cluster
You should have a doctor evaluate the skin tag so they can recommend the proper treatment. Your options will include flash-freezing, or cryotherapy; laser removal; electric cauterization; or surgical excision. These procedures are relatively painless, minimally invasive, and typically only require a single, outpatient visit. If necessary, local anaesthesia may be used.
For an irritated, bleeding, or infected skin tag, your child’s doctor may also perform a biopsy. This involves having the removed skin tag tissue tested at a lab to determine if there is another problem that might also require treatment.
Should you be worried about cancer?
A skin tag is not cancerous and is not a symptom of skin cancer. If it does become irritated or infected, however, it will still require medical attention. In some cases, an irritated/infected skin tag could indicate another skin problem. And this can be ruled out or confirmed by a biopsy.
Keep a close eye on your child’s skin tag, or any other skin growths. Take note of any sudden and drastic changes in its appearance and always err on the side of caution and have it checked by your child’s pediatrician. Skin tags are not common among children, but their appearance does not necessarily mean that there is an underlying condition you should be worried about. A visit to the doctor will help ease your concerns.
Are skin tags permanent?
Especially if you have a very active child, their skin tag can get accidentally caught on something and pulled off. This will typically result in a wound, and you can treat it as you would any wound. But if the skin tag was bigger than normal, you may want to get the wound looked at by a doctor to prevent infection and scarring.
Aside from accidental removal, skin tags do not go away without treatment. But removal can be an option, whether for cosmetic reasons or medical necessity.
It is normal for a parent to worry about an abnormal skin growth on their child. Finding more information online can make you more worried, but if you know how and where to get reliable information, the internet can also help set your mind at ease.
If you’re able to properly identify your child’s skin growth as a skin tag, then you can rest easy knowing that it is harmless. You should still be vigilant and watch out for any changes in its appearance. As active as children can be, a skin tag can easily get irritated and infected. If this happens, going to a doctor should always be your first option.
If your child’s skin tag leads to self-consciousness and low self-esteem, then you can discuss with him/her and their doctor the treatment options available. Even if it seems like a small and harmless growth, it is not worth making your child feel embarrassed or even miserable.