I don’t know if it was common knowledge among children everywhere, but growing up, I heard from many of my friends and playground-enemies that if I touched a toad I would get warts. That didn’t stop me from catching every one I could, of course, but now I have to wonder if the few warts I have could’ve been prevented by those toads being a little faster.
The idea that touching a toad would cause warts was most likely first circulated by mothers who didn’t wish their children chasing, catching and probably bringing inside, these wild animals.
Of course, many children ignore the story and catch toads, frogs and anything else they can. However, the myth continues and I am absolutely certain that if you listened in on playground gossip today you would still hear children warning each other about the wart-causing ability of toads.
The majority of warts are caused by an infection of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the upper layer of our skin. This virus is able to get into the skin through even microscopic scratches. Once inside, it causes rapid cell growth – the traditional bump of a common wart.
Perhaps the strongest support for the old adage of toads causing warts stems from the fact that certain common species of toads have bumps on their skin that look quite similar to human warts.
While scientists have proved, with no uncertainty, that toads do not cause warts, they have also found some good reasons we probably shouldn’t handle them too often.
The bumps on a toad’s skin are actually glands which secrete toxins, helping the toad ward off predators. While brief skin contact may not injure a child, prolonged contact or accidental ingestion of these toxins could prove harmful.