We provide information and advice about the signs and symptoms, treatments, risks and complications of molluscum contagiosum here – and how to help your child at home with molluscum contagiosum.

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that produces a common skin disease characterised by a skin bump or papule. It can occur in children and adults and is caused by a pox virus called molluscum contagiosum virus (sometimes mistakenly spelt moluscum, molluscom, mulluscum, mollescum, molescum, molloscum). It can look similar to warts or pimples.

The virus is contagious and spreads through direct contact, through using shared items such as towels, through saliva and also via swimming pools. It can be spread easily amongst siblings and is more common in areas with poor, overcrowded living conditions.

It generally appears in children aged 2 – 12 years with a rash characteristic by lingering pink/pearl-like/brown spots that appear on the face, arms and legs and which can last from a few months up to two years; a common duration seems to be 9 months. The virus will eventually clear of its own accord.

Molluscum contagiosum is more common in children with atopic eczema, where it can cause more spots and persist longer. It is also more common in warm, moist tropical climates.

In adults, molluscum contagiosum can be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In sexually transmitted cases the rash can appear on the genitals, thighs and lower stomach. It is a particular problem for those who are immuno-suppressed (where the immune system is compromised), such as people with AIDS.

The incubation period (when the virus is first contracted until the rash appears) for molluscum contagiosum is from 2 – 8 weeks.

What are the signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

  • Pink/white/brown spots with a wax-like dome
  • Spots around 1 – 6mm in size
  • Spots may be shiny and have a dent in the middle
  • The rash can consist of several hundred spots and may be itchy
  • The rash in children appears on face, neck, chest, armpits, arms, groin, legs, behind the knee, on the back of the hands – in fact anywhere on the body besides palms of hands and soles of feet
  • As the rash begins to clear it may become crusted or scabbed

What is the treatment for molluscum contagiosum?

  • A correct diagnosis needs to be made – see a doctor
  • Because the virus cannot be treated, the rash needs to clear of its own accord
  • Larger and more persistent spots can be removed by freezing or scraping
  • In some cases the white waxy core of the spot can be removed with a sterile needle
  • Sometimes wart-type medication or homeopathic creams may be suggested as a cure, including products such as ZymaDerm or SilverCure.

Risks & complications

  • Scratching will cause the rash or papules to spread.
  • Secondary bacterial infection, particularly in children.
  • Scarring.
  • Some growths may take five years to disappear.
  • May cause dermatitis (inflammation) on the surrounding skin.

What can I do for my child with molluscum contagiosum?

  • Avoid scratching the rash or papules as this may cause infection and scarring
  • Wash hands carefully after touching the rash to prevent transmission
  • Stay out of swimming pools to prevent spread of the rash
  • Teach children not to share towels, clothing and other items to prevent spread
  • Don’t let a child with molluscum contagiosum share a bath or shower with others
  • Keep children clean and get them to wash their hands regularly
  • Keep children out of swimming pools and shared baths to prevent spread
  • Antiseptic swabs may be useful if spots become infected
  • One home remedy that may be successful is taping a cotton ball soaked in cider vinegar on the skin for 24 hours to help remove the lesion
  • Recontact your doctor if the rash spreads, persists or other symptoms appear.

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Click here to read more information on Eczema

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Kimberley Paterson is a writer and public relations expert living in Whangaparaoa. She had an initial career as a registered nurse and has spent the last 20 years writing about health and well-being.

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Louisaandgavin

My 2 kids age 7 and 5 had it and I found Dr Wheatgrasss spray online which cleared it up in 6- 8 weeks. i was told it was viral and there was nothing you could do but wait it out. I swear by this spray. It drew them out and some did look abit nasty and red but they disapeared quickly after this

Clenita Pinto

Hi! my son has a spot on his tummy, and i have been using Dr. Wheatgrass spray for a week now. The spot has got a slight yellow tip, like pus – Is the spray working as the virus is being pushed out? Your thoughts?

Margaret

My 3 children had molluscum contagiosum – and it ran its course in the first 2 but stubbornly refused to go away in the 3rd.  I found the apple cider vinegar helpful in the other 2 but they didn’t like it.  Eventually our gp froze off 2 of the largest spots on my daughters elbow about 18 months after she got the first spot as he said this might eventually trigger an immune response and kill of the virus and amazingly it did work, and very quickly too.

Rochelle Gribble

Thanks Margaret- there seems to be lots of molluscum contagious around at the moment! 

Cheers, 

Rochelle

K154

Has anyone used any overseas treament creams with success?? I have a 4.5yrs old who has had it for 6 months.

Rochelle Gribble

Hi K154, 

I consulted Kate, our Well Child Nurse and she says:

Unfortunately there is no known cure for Molluscum Contagiosum, here in NZ or overseas. There are varying things you can try, but none of them are proven to be effective. If there is a core that you can see, it is safe to remove that and this will help the lesion heal. However, the safest and best option is to let the virus run its course. Keep it clean and watch for signs of a secondary bacteria infection (redness, swelling, pus, pain etc etc)

Hope this helps! 

Rochelle

Ruth

Hi Rochelle
Just a warning, ‘squeezing’ can lead to scars – avoid if at all possible!
My son had them on his back when he was little, I couldn’t resist and he now has scars all over him!
As described symptoms all stopped after a few months.
Ruth

Rochelle Gribble

Thanks for that note, Ruth… that’s really good to know! 

Rochelle

Jay

My daughter has them and they are getting worse and worse.. I was told about ZymaDerm from America and ordered some.. Wow, Amazing stuff!! Ive been using it on her for 8 days now and they are all either getting smaller or have gone.. It looks so much better now to just a week ago, I can hardly believe it! Would highly recommend it! Great stuff.. 

Eagleflyinghigh

Hello, my 7month old has molluscum contagiosum and I was at my wits end, with doctors telling me to let it run its course and use betadine to stop the spread which I have to say did absolutely nothing at all – the spots spread and soon my wee baby had over 80 spots.  I used the internet and viewed many websites and found ended up contacting a NZ website called http://www.wheatgrass.co.nz which i highly reccomend.  I used their specifically designed spray for molluscum in conjunction with their super shots and after 8 weeks their are 2 spots left.  I am now… Read more »

Rochelle

Thanks for that!

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