Has anyone ever told you you’ll get warts on your hands if you pick up a frog or toad? If it sounds a little far-fetched, that's because it is. No amount of handling frogs or toads — or any reptiles or amphibians — will cause you to develop warts.
This myth is thought to have originated because many frogs and toads have bumpy, lumpy skin, and people at one time thought the bumps were contagious. Warts are contagious, but they aren't spread from animals to humans. Instead, warts are caused by a human virus called human papillomavirus.
People get warts when the virus enters their skin through a cut or scrape, causing the rough, bumpy growth on the skin. More than 150 different types of human papillomavirus exist, but only a few cause warts.
Anyone can get warts, but they are most common in kids. That’s because children are more prone to cuts and scrapes and their immune systems aren't fully developed. Warts are also more common in people who have weakened immune systems.
All animals can get warts, but most viruses that cause them are specific to a particular species. That means just like we don't get warts from frogs, toads or other animals, animals won't get warts from us. For the most part, humans get warts from humans, horses get warts from horses, dogs get warts from dogs, etc.
The bumps and lumps on toads' and frogs' skin that gave rise to the notion that we can get warts from them are not actually warts at all. They are actually glands on their skin.
And while you don’t have to worry that picking up a frog or toad will cause warts, you should handle them safely. Some frogs and toads secrete toxins from their skin, and even healthy amphibians can have harmful bacteria on their skin. In addition, the skin secretions from some frogs and toads can irritate human skin or cause a rash.
This brings us to another myth about frogs: Kissing one won't turn it into a prince, and doing so could make both you and the frog sick. Amphibians have very permeable skin, which means viruses and bacteria can easily enter their bodies. And since they can have bacteria on their skin, close contact with them can make humans very sick.
If you handle an amphibian, the best way to do so is with clean hands. And always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any reptile or amphibian.
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