Children's Health and Wellness

Molluscum Contagiosum in Children

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin disease 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 over time.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus called the poxvirus. It is very common in children and adolescents.

Who is at risk for molluscum contagiosum?

Children can get molluscum contagiosum by skin-to-skin contact with a person who has it. The problem is found worldwide but is thought to be more common in hot, humid environments.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The bumps are small and are usually pink or skin-colored. Eventually, the bumps tend to have a small sunken center. The bumps can show up alone or in clusters. They are not harmful. But they may make your child feel self-conscious if they appear on the face or other visible areas.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

The bumps are unique and are usually diagnosed on physical exam. The healthcare provider will also take your child’s health history. Additional tests are not routinely ordered.

How is molluscum contagiosum treated?

Treatment will depend on your child's symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

In most cases, the bumps will heal without treatment over a period of 6 to 12 months. The virus can last up to 4 years and leave scars. Additional treatment choices may include:

  • Removing the bumps by freezing them, using lasers, or cutting them out with a special instrument
  • Using medicines on the skin to help the bumps go away faster

Can molluscum contagiosum be prevented?

The virus inside the bump is only mildly contagious. It can be spread to other children who directly touch the bumps. The best prevention is to avoid contact with the bumps.

Living with molluscum contagiosum

The virus will gradually disappear on its own. But it can take months, or even years, for the bumps to completely heal. During this time it is important that your child does not scratch the bumps. Scratching them causes the virus to spread and draws out the time it takes for them to heal. It is not necessary to limit your child’s activities, school, child care, sports, or swimming in public pools. But it is important to cover them with a waterproof bandage during contact sports to prevent infecting another person.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

If you think your child has molluscum contagiosum, talk with your child’s healthcare provider about treatment choices.

Key points about molluscum contagiosum

  • Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin disease that causes small pink or skin-colored bumps on your child’s skin.
  • It is not harmful, does not have any other symptoms, and is only mildly contagious.
  • It is very common in children and adolescents.
  • In most cases, the bumps will heal without treatment over a period of 6 to 12 months.
  • You should discuss treatment options with your child’s healthcare provider.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Source: American Academy of Family Physicianshttp://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/skin-rashes.printerview.all.html
Online Source: CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/molluscum/faq/everyone.htm
Online Source: CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/molluscum/overview.htm
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Haines, Cynthia, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 9/29/2015
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