Molluscum Contagiosum: Remedies And How To Prevent It From Spreading

Molluscum Contagiosum: Remedies And How To Prevent It From Spreading

Molluscum Contagiosum (MC) is a common childhood skin infection. In this article, we look at remedies and how to prevent it from spreading in your home...

If I had to name the worst medical tongue twister for parents to repeat, it would hands down be Molluscum Contagiosum. No one ever remembers how to say it.

Molluscum Contagiosum (MC) is a common childhood skin infection, and every week I see desperate mums and dads horrified at the little crop of ‘warts’ that have appeared on their dear little one’s body.

The good news is, these little bumps aren’t warts. MC is caused by a different type of virus, a poxvirus, that causes small clusters of skin bumps called mollusca. Kids get them most commonly, especially the little ones, but I’m sorry parents – you’re not immune!

Molluscum Contagiosum: What you need to know

What exactly is a Mollusca?

Mollusca are small round bumps on the skin, ranging from about 1mm to 6mm in diameter. They vary in colour – white, pink, or brown – but tend to have a waxy shiny look, with a central grey pit. Excited kids (and parents) often give them a squeeze, only to discover a white cheesy material inside.

Kids might have one, or hundreds. They tend to cluster in warm moist areas of the body – the groin, armpits, nappy line, or behind the knees – but can occur anywhere, even the mouth.

The virus is more common in hot moist climates and usually pop up during a humid summer.

Molluscum contagiosum

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

How to prevent it from spreading in your home

There are several ways the virus spreads, but the key is contact with the virus from other people.

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact – kids playing and mucking around together.
  • Indirect contact – for example shared towels.
  • Virus can be spread around the body by scratching – and that’s often why the little mollusca occur in very linear lines.
  • While cases are much less common for adults, they can get the virus or spread it through sexual contact or shaving.

Without doubt, transmission is increased in wet conditions, so be really careful when kids bathe and swim together.

It’s an illness six months in the making

I’m often asked by parents when their child picked it up, desperately trying to work out which smelly cousin was the culprit. But the challenge is, it can take up to six months for mollusca to appear after exposure – so it’s almost impossible to blame any one person. 

MC is truly one of the unexciting illnesses of childhood. Sure, they’re unsightly, and often raise unwanted attention in childcare centres, but for the most part, they come and go without any issues at all. The mollusca themselves can cause a dermatitis like reaction around them, plus they are more common for kids with eczema. You also need to be careful of secondary infection if kids scratch too much and the wound gets infected.

The only frustration is that MC can hang around for ages, and by ages it can be two years or more. About half of cases have cleared by 12 months, and two-thirds by 18 months, with or without treatment. Contact with another infected individual later on can lead to a new crop of mollusca.

No way of killing the virus… and it will linger

For the most part, there’s nothing you can do about them. That’s because there is no perfect treatment for MC, and we have no way of killing the virus.

So if you think your little one has mollusca, then pop in to see your doctor to check them out. In many cases, we simply let time and the body’s immune system do its thing. But please be reassured, if your child has MC, there’s no reason to exclude them from childcare or school.

Some of the possible remedies include:

  • Carefully picking out the soft white core. But this carries the risk of spreading the virus more (or even to mum and dad).
  • Some people use wart paints that contain salicylic acid with some effect. Hydrogen peroxide cream or povidone iodine solution may help too.
  • Cryotherapy – using liquid nitrogen to ‘freeze’ them, but it can leave marks or scars on the skin, often worse than the mollusca to start with.
  • A dermatologist could attempt laser therapies, but they carry a scarring risk too.

The best option is prevention to reduce spread, try:

  • Make sure kids keep those hands clean.
  • Cover them up! Clothing and waterproof dressings work best.
  • Avoid scratching when mollusca are around.
  • Don’t share towels
  • Avoid kids having baths together.

If you’re concerned about anything presenting in your child, be sure to speak to your local health practitioner. 

This article was republished with permission from KidSpot.

Also READ: Childhood warts: Safe remedies to treat and prevent them

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Kidspot Editor

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