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Molluscum Contagiosm
last updated:
Wed, 5/08/2013 1:48 PM

Molluscum Contagiosm is a skin virus that's a lot more common than most parents would think. This pesky skin rash is harmless, but when it pops up on your child you are certain to have many questions. We talked to Dr. Sandy Arnold, infectious disease physician at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Here's what she had to say about the virus:

What causes the virus?
Molluscom contagiosum virus is in the family of poxviruses, which is in the same family as the smallpox virus and Variola but has very different manifestations. The virus is only found in humans and causes small, dome-shaped, flesh-colored bumps on the skin. Some lesions will have a small dimple in the center and can occur anywhere on the body, but lesions are usually localized in one specific area. It is rare to have them all over unless the individual has eczema or a compromised immune system.

Is it contagious?
Molluscum contagiosum is contagious. 

How does it spread?
It is spread through contact with lesions from a person infected with the virus. The virus can be spread through sexual contact or through objects that an infected person has touched. The bumps can spread from one part of the body to another, which is how bumps can appear on different parts of the body.

How long does it typically last?
The bumps can last for weeks – even up to a year – but will regress without treatment.

What are any home remedies and do they work?
No treatment is necessary. This infection is very common in children and is completely benign. Mechanical removal of the core of the bump with a fingernail will help the bump resolve faster, but this process can be painful. Over-the-counter salicylic and lactic acid preparations can be used for treatment. However, this is usually unnecessary as the virus will always regress without assistance.

Does it hurt or itch?
The molluscum virus is not painful. In some children, there is itching. Sometimes when the lesions start to heal, they will flare up and become red.  Following this, the lesion will fade away and will not leave a scar. This is a symptom of the body’s immune response to the virus and is normal.  Antibiotics are not required for this.

Can it be spread from child to child in a family unit?
Molluscum can spread from one child to another within a family. Adults do not tend to acquire the virus as most have been previously exposed as children.

Bottom line:
Molluscum always goes away. Generally, as with other kinds of warts, the bumps bother the parents more than they do the children.  The treatments that can be applied will likely cause more discomfort than the bumps themselves. 


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
50 N. Dunlap Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38103 • (901) 287-KIDS