Children's Health and Wellness

Molluscum Contagiosum in Children

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral disease of the skin that causes small pink or skin-colored bumps on your child's skin. It is not harmful and usually does not have any other symptoms. The virus is inside the bumps and is mildly contagious. These bumps usually clear on their own over an extended period of time.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus called the poxvirus. It is most common in children and adolescents. It can also affect adults. Children and adolescents with atopic dermatitis (eczema) may be more at risk for getting the infection.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The bumps are small and are usually pink or skin-colored and between 3mm to 6 mm. Eventually, the bumps tend to have a small sunken center. The lesions can happen alone or in groups or clusters. They are not harmful, but may cause some cosmetic concern for the child if they appear on the face or other visible areas.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical exam of the child. The lesions are unique and are usually diagnosed on physical exam. Additional tests are not routinely ordered.

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum

Specific treatment for molluscum contagiosum will be decided by your child's health care provider based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

In most cases, the lesions will heal without treatment over a period of 6 to 12 months. The virus can last up to 4 years and leave scars. Scars happen more often with treatment than when allowed to resolve on their own. Additional treatment options may include:

  • Removal of the lesions by using cryotherapy (freezing them off), electrodessication, or lasers 

  • The lesions can be squeezed to destroy them or scraped off with a currette. If not done properly, this can lead to more lesions).

  • Use of topical medicines (to speed resolution of the lesions)

  • Cantharidin ( blister beetle extract), salicylic acid, and imiquimod are used to treat molluscum

Online Source: American Academy of Family Physicians
Online Source: CDC
Online Source: CDC
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Haines, Cynthia, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 4/30/2015
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