What's Up with Molluscum?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

By Daniel Krowchuk, M.D., Pediatrician and Co-Director of Pediatric Dermatology, Brenner Children’s Hospital

One of the more vexing skin problems affecting children is molluscum contagiosum. What is it and what can be done about it?

Molluscum contagiosum (“molluscum”) is a viral infection of the skin. For reasons that are not known, molluscum is becoming more common. It is spread by close physical contact (skin-to-skin) or by contaminated objects, like a towel or wash cloth. Although very controversial, there is some evidence that molluscum may be spread via swimming pools. Any child may get molluscum but those who have eczema seem to be particularly prone.

The bumps of molluscum contagiosum are small, skin-colored, and have a “pearly” appearance (see photo). There may be a dimple on the surface of some bumps, a helpful sign in identifying the condition. Some children develop a few bumps while others get many. Almost any area of the body can be affected.

At times, an area of red, irritated skin appears around molluscum bumps. Often this a form of dermatitis caused by the virus. If the bumps themselves become red and swollen it’s usually a sign that the body’s immune system is fighting the virus. However, consult with your medical provider if you observe these changes.

While a child has molluscum contagiosum, it’s common for some bumps to go away only to be replaced by new ones. The infection can last months to a few years before immunity develops and the bumps disappear for good. Once gone, molluscum generally doesn’t return.

So, what can be done if you think your child has molluscum? It’s helpful to consult with your medical provider to discuss the options. If your child has only a few bumps that are not bothersome, many parents choose to “wait and see.” If treatment is desired, it’s important to be aware that available therapies can cause bumps to disappear but cannot rid the body of the virus. For this reason, new bumps may continue to form until immunity develops.

There are a number of treatments for molluscum but none works perfectly. For young children, options that don’t cause pain usually are advised. These may include a blistering solution applied in the provider’s office, forms of mild acids (like those used to treat warts), or a medication that boosts the immune system in the skin where it is applied. For older children or adolescents, freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen often is used.

Has your family encountered molluscum yet? What tips would you give to others?

Ashley commented on 02-May-2013 09:32 AM
Both of my children had molluscums. My little boy had a significant amounts of them, although his medical histroy was quit involved, these little things were VERY minor! After a few years of watching them, I think we did treat some of them. He has no signs of them or any real scar. My daughter got a couple and I know I had hers treated. Keep a watch on them and keep letting your doctor know, but ours were tolerable and fixable!
Katie commented on 02-May-2013 09:40 AM
My son had this when he was four, and I agree, it's very minor. However, he was given a topical treatment to rid of them. The doctor applied the treatment, and we had to let it sit for several hours under bandages, and then take it off. It turned out that the time to take off the bandages was in the middle of the night, and it was very unpleasant (and painful) for my son. It was suggested we continue the treatment a few more times until the molluscum was gone, but after going thru that experience, my husband and I decided not to do it again. Eventually the molluscum disappeared on its own!
Kathleen commented on 08-May-2013 09:26 AM
So glad to see this brought up! All 3 of my kids have it...presumably from bathing together :( so while separate baths is a pain, it is a pretty harmless problem. They don't itch. My oldest had it first and hers finally went away. Be forewarned...they bled when "going away." Not much, but enough to cause concern if you aren't expecting it. My other 2 are just waiting it out.
Anonymous commented on 27-Jun-2013 09:07 AM
If your child is dealing with this try apple cider vinegar. My 4 year old had a few on the back of her knee and one decided to get really red and swell. Previously, the doctor mentioned waiting them out or doing other painful procedures that we opted against (freezing/lancing). I read a lot of comments online and put ACV on a cotton ball and taped it to the spots using latex free tape and she went to bed. The next day the spot was almost completely flat, but I did have to gently squeeze some infection out (gross, but painless and effective) I wiped around the area with alcohol to ease my fears of the liquid that came out from creating new spots. I put bandages over these newly flattened, but open sores as to not spread to other kids. We did this routine the following night and the next morning there was little black spots on the top of each. After these 2 nights I have applied Neosporin and sometimes nothing, just to let the skin heal. ACV is harsh on the skin and even latex free medical tape can cause irritation so consider using zinc oxide (diaper rash cream) around the bumps to add protection to that skin. If you don't want to wait 6-12 months as the doctor instructed and you don't want painful procedures Google "ACV for molluscum" and read other comments and try it. It worked for us and my daughter has not complained of it being painful.
Heavenly Pools commented on 11-Dec-2014 08:42 PM
So, wait, there's no known cause? Do these itch terribly, or cause any other sort of discomfort for our children? Has anyone tried Apple Cider vinegar as the above Anonymous poster mentioned?

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