Answers For YOUR Health

      Using Mother Nature's Gifts
Common Sense and Modern Medicine

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Common Viral Skin Infection 

 Molluscum Contagiosum


What is Molluscum Contagiosum?  It is a common viral skin infection that affects mainly children. The virus that causes molluscum contagiosum is a member of the poxvirus family. It spreads by skin-to-skin contact from contaminated objects like toys, doorknobs, faucet handles and other objects. Once again, day care facilities and schools are primary sites of infection.

Molluscum infections occur worldwide but are more common in warm, humid climates and where living conditions are crowded. There is evidence that molluscum infections have been on the rise in the United States since 1966, but these infections are not routinely monitored because they are seldom serious and routinely disappear without treatment.

Molluscum is common enough that you should not be surprised if you see someone with it or if someone in your family becomes infected. Although not limited to children, it is most common in children 1 to 10 years of age. People with weakened immune systems such as HIV-infected persons or persons being treated for cancer are at higher risk for getting molluscum, and their growths may look different, be larger, and be more difficult to treat.

The infection first appears as painless bumps that can disappear within a year without treatment. If left alone the bumps cause no harm. The bumps are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet.

This rash starts out with bumps that are round, raised and flesh-colored. They have a small indentation or dot on the top of them. The rash can appear on the face, armpits, hands, neck and arms. They can be as small as the head of a pin and as large as a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimeters in diameter). The bumps can become red and inflamed. If scratched or rubbed they will come off, but then spread to nearby skin.... so don't scratch! Try telling that to a child. Warmth and moisture can spread the virus to nearby skin as well as scratching or rubbing.

molluscum contagiosum

This is an image of the more common molluscum rash.

molluscum in immune compromised

This is a much more sever molluscum rash on the back of an immune depressed individual.

Persons with weakened immune systems (such as cancer, organ transplantation, HIV etc.) are at increased risk for catching molluscum and may develop very large growths (the size of a dime or larger—at least 15 millimeters in diameter). Bumps may be anywhere on the body but tend to occur on the face and not to go away by themselves.


Although Molluscum Contagiosum is generally a children's virus, adults have been known to contract it as well. If molluscum contagiosum appears on the genitals it can be considered a sexual infection. Adults who contract molluscum contagiosum should be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases. The rash may also appear on the lower abdomen, inner upper thighs and the buttocks in adults. This is NOT related to genital warts and is not a serious infection. Adults with altered immune systems are susceptible to Molluscum contagiosum.

Individuals should seek medical attention if you suspect you or a child has this skin infection. Since children are always popping out with one rash or another, it is imperative that a health care professional determine the exact cause.  Yes, grandma probably can tell one rash from another, but go to the doctor anyway.







Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum

Without any formal treatment Molluscum Contagiosum generally clears up on its own in 6 to 18 months. Children may take longer to heal.

Treatment of molluscum is more difficult among persons with weakened immune systems. The best treatment is to strengthen the immune system by treating the primary problem.

Doctors may remove the infection to stop the spread to nearby skin by scraping or using curettage, or by surgical removal, freezing (cryotherapy) or by using laser therapy.

Wart medications may also remove molluscum contagiosum papules.

If the individual has any other skin disorders like atopic eczema or a weakened immune system the infection can become progressively worse and more extensive so these individuals should seek medical intervention.

To stop the spread of this skin infection: Avoid touching, scratching or rubbing the papules. Do not shave over the area.

Do not share towels, razors or other personal items with others. Avoid sexual contact until the papules have completely healed. As with all skin-to-skin contact infections, it is important to wash hands frequently, avoid sharing utensils and all personal items with the affected individuals. Wash towels and bed linens in hot water and soap.

Only a health care provider can diagnose molluscum infection. If you have any unusual skin irritation, rash, bump(s), or blister(s) that do not disappear in a few days, you should see a health care provider.

The virus lives only in the skin and once the growths are gone, the virus is gone and you cannot spread the virus to others.

Molluscum contagiosum is not like herpes viruses, which can remain dormant (“sleeping”) in your body for long periods and then reappear. So, assuming you do not come in contact with another infected person, once all the molluscum contagiosum bumps go away, you will not develop any new bumps.

Recovery from one infection with molluscum does not prevent future infections with molluscum.

If you get new molluscum contagiosum bumps after you are cured, it means you have come in contact with an infected person or object.

The most common complication is a secondary infection caused by bacteria. Additionally, the removal of bumps by scratching, freezing (cryotherapy), or fluid removal (curettage) can leave scars on the skin.

Day Care and School - Can they go or do they need to stay home?


There should be no reason to keep a child with molluscum infection home from day care or school. Growths not covered by clothing should be covered with a watertight bandage. Change the bandage daily or when obviously soiled.

If a child with bumps in the underwear/diaper area needs assistance going to the bathroom or needs diaper changes, then growths in this area should be bandaged too if possible.

Covering the bumps will protect other children and adults from getting molluscum and will also keep the child from touching and scratching the bumps, which could spread the bumps to other parts of his/her body or cause secondary (bacterial) infections.

Remind children to wash their hands frequently

The risk of a secondary infection caused by bacteria is always present.  Don't scratch!!!



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