Understanding molluscum and how it’s treated
Tiny bumps that look like growths or warts often appear on the skin of children ages 1-12. They may be shiny, or have an indented center. While something like this might make a parent nervous, it is a common issue that won’t cause serious harm, and goes away over time.
Molluscum contagiosum is a very common rash where the virus infects the outer layer of skin, causing tiny white or skin colored bumps. They begin as small bumps and occasionally grow as large as a pencil eraser. Typically there is a small dip in the middle where the virus lives. There can be as many as a few to over a hundred bumps on the skin. While molluscum is contagious, most older children and adults are immune. Bathing with siblings may share the virus or it may spread to different areas of the body by scratching. As near all kids/teenagers will get the virus (then developing an immunity for decades to life), it may be an advantage to having molluscum now rather than later.
How Do They Go Away?
Sometimes these bumps can be rather large, so kids and parents can be anxious to have them leave sooner rather than later. Immunity to molluscum (and thus the clearing of bumps) will eventually develop even if left untreated, but it may take months to years. Treatments speed up the process of a patient developing antibodies and becoming immune. The treatments in essence try to “destroy” or irritate the molluscum by applying a chemical, freezing, or scraping. This alerts one’s immune system to go to the area to repair and heal the scab or blister.
Should I Get My Child Treated?
Typically molluscum large enough to be seen are treated; even so, there are often spots that form while visible ones are being treated. Even if a few molluscum are missed, treatment of the others will still stimulate the body’s immune system to discover the virus which, now primes, causes other spots to become red (a good sign), scab over, and heal. Multiple treatments may be required until the body has developed immunity to them. It general, it takes 1-3 visits (rarely more) to eliminate the molluscum.
Remember, molluscum is contagious. Skin-to-skin contact, or touching objects that have the virus can lead to infection. This will lead some parents to seek treatment.
- Cantharone: this is a gel that causes blistering to speed up the immunity process.
- Liquid nitrogen
- Other topical creams
Dry Skin Around Molluscum
It is common for children to develop eczema (dry, itchy, red rash) around the molluscum. This is a sign that immunity is developing. As eczema impairs the skin barrier, the molluscum virus spreads easier over eczema-affected skin. Use moisturizing creams and lotions. For really dry skin, Vaseline can be good. Apply moisturizer especially after baths, when skin can be dry.