Molluscum Contagiosum

Little girl scratches her skin.

Have you noticed small, pink or skin-colored, pearly bumps on your child’s face, trunk, arms, or legs? You are not alone! Molluscum contagiosum may sound like a Harry Potter spell, but it is an extremely common childhood skin infection. Some people refer to molluscum as “water warts.”

Molluscum is caused by the poxvirus, a different virus than the source of more classic warts. The virus causes several (usually between 2-20) smooth skin-colored bumps often with a shiny surface and a central indentation or dimple. They are rarely found on the palms and soles, but can be almost anywhere else on the body.

Molluscum range in size from about a pin-head to a pencil eraser. They are usually painless. We see molluscum most often in toddlers and school-aged children. If you aren’t sure if the bumps you are seeing are molluscum, we can take a quick look in clinic.

Molluscum contagiosum is spread by direct contact with the skin of an infected person, but can also spread on towels or other fomites (objects). Encourage your child not to scratch or pick at the bumps to minimize the spread to other parts of the body or other people.

If your child has eczema, using a thick unscented daily moisturizer can also be useful, as molluscum tends to cluster in areas of dry cracked skin. The virus lives only in the top layers of the skin, so once the bumps are gone it can no longer be transferred to someone else.

These annoying bumps typically last for several months but can hang around for a few years. The good news is that they are completely harmless and don’t require any treatment. It is usually best to just leave them alone. When the lesions become red and inflamed, the body is working to get rid of them and they are likely to resolve soon.

However, if the redness continues to spread or your child has a fever, schedule a visit to be seen. If you are wanting to try something to get molluscum to go away sooner, some pediatricians suggest applying Zymaderm or tea tree oil to the molluscum.

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