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My partner was just diagnosed with genital warts. We have a baby. After reading online about recurrent respiratory papillomatosis and children acquiring warts from their caregivers hands I am terrified. Once the treatment is completed and there are no visible warts, is it safe to share a bathtub or towels? Have him change diapers or bathe the baby? Also, what if he or I have the same type of HPV orally? Can it be spread by sharing food or kissing our baby? Thank you.

Hi

I can see how reading this type of information would make someone worried. I don’t know your specific situation so I will be unable to give detailed information, but I can give you some general information and what to look out for.

Genital warts are caused by HPV and are very common. Most people who get genital HPV do not get symptoms so it is something that usually comes and goes without the person knowing. The same types of HPV that infect the genital areas can infect the mouth and throat, they currently think the most likely way for them to be transmitted is from oral sex. With most people the HPV on the genitals and throat goes away before they cause any health problems.

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is when benign tumors caused by HPV grow in the air passages. Most visible genital warts and RRP are caused by the same type of HPV. Given how common HPV on the genitals is RRP is not very common at all, currently they estimate two or fewer cases per 100,000 children under age 18.

The most common way that RRP is passed to a child is during childbirth or before birth. As genital HPV is so common, most people do not have symptoms and there is generally no testing available it is currently impossible to know if any adult has or does not have HPV on the genitals. I am unsure if you had genital HPV at the time of delivery, but even if you did, having no visible warts would really decrease that already small chance of a child developing RRP.

In regard to RRP being passed from a caregiver’s hand I have not heard of this happening. I know in some studies they have been able to find some of the genital types of HPV on the hands, but they believe this is from rubbing/scratching the genitals with bits of the virus getting on there and showing up in a test. Generally, the types of HPV that likes the genitals does not like the hands environment so does not establish an infection there. You typically need to develop an infection in an area for there to be a chance of passing it on.

Your partner would be fine to care for the baby while having genital warts, you would just need to avoid any direct skin to skin contact with the warts. I would not be concerned about your partners hands passing genital HPV to your child, but as part of normal hygiene it is always a good idea for people to wash their hands with soap and water after touching their genitals, before preparing or eating food, before and after changing a diaper.

Sharing a bathtub would be fine, but it is always a good idea to have your own towel and wash it on a regular basis. It would be unknown if you or your partner had a HPV infection in the mouth, as discussed earlier it is common for HPV to be in the mouth, but for most people it comes and goes without causing a problem.

They currently think that oral HPV may be passed by deep kissing (French kissing) but they are unsure how much of a risk there may be with this activity. As a general guide it is best to avoid saliva to saliva contact between a parent and a child. The parent’s saliva can contain viruses e.g. like the common cold or flu and bacteria that could eventually damage the child’s teeth. You can kiss your child, just do it on dry skin and avoid doing things like sharing spoons, drinking containers, tasting food in your mouth before giving it to the child etc.…

If you have any concerns about your child’s health it would be best to visit your health care professional as they would know you and your child’s situation. Young children with RRP may find it difficult to breathe when sleeping or difficulty swallowing, these symptoms are also common to many other conditions and RRP is not common, but if these do happen you could always mention RRP to the health provider you see.

Let us know if you have any more questions or concerns.

Health Nurse

This answer was posted on December 21, 2017

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