Should I Be Worried about These Skin Bumps?
Have you started noticing little bumps on your child’s skin? It may just be a benign (not threatening), very contagious skin infection known as Molluscum Contagiosum (MC). MC is a viral skin infection that is commonly found in children. Lesions may appear and take, on average, 6 to 12 months to resolve, but can last much longer. Although not threatening or harmful, it can be bothersome to individuals suffering from it, and historically, hard to treat.
What are the symptoms of MC?
MC consists of small lesions known as Mollusca. These are small, raised bumps that can be white, pink, or flesh-colored, have a little dip in the center, and typically have a pearly (shiny) appearance. They can appear anywhere on the body and may be itchy, sore, or swollen.
Who is at risk for MC?
MC can impact anyone, but is usually found in children, most commonly between the ages of 1 and 10 years. The virus that causes MC is spread from person to person contact or contact with an object that has been contaminated by the virus, like towels, bedding, and pool and gym equipment. Since it can be passed so easily, almost anyone is at risk. However, people more at risk include those who have weakened immune systems (those with diseases impacting the immune system such as HIV or medications that weaken immune system), those with atopic dermatitis or eczema (itchy inflammation of the skin), or people who live in crowded living conditions in warm, humid environments.
Is there any treatment for MC?
Treatment often isn’t needed, as MC usually resolves on its own—it just takes patience and time and following recommendations to limit the spread (discussed later in this article!). But sometimes, when lesions become very bothersome or there are a lot, doctors may choose to treat them. Also, doctors will usually recommend the treatment of lesions in the genital area. If you or your child have lesions in that area or are concerned about any other lesions, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend treatment by either physically removing them or prescribing medication to take by mouth (cimetidine) or a cream or gel to apply to the lesions such as cantharidin or berdazimer gel (the only FDA-approved therapies). Other topical treatments that may be used but are not FDA-approved include podophyllotoxin cream, iodine, salicylic acid, potassium hydroxide, tretinoin, and imiquimod. Some of these medications can be toxic to pregnant patients. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and treating a child with MC. If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, you may want to have someone else apply the treatment to your child. Be sure to wash your hands well immediately after applying the treatment.
What can I do to help the lesions go away faster? Is there are way I can prevent getting MC?
The key to helping MC go away faster, and to prevent MC infection, is to keep it from spreading by practicing good hygiene. Make sure to wash your hands, avoid scratching or picking at lesions, do not share towels or clothing or other personal items, do not shave or have electrolysis in areas with lesions, and in addition to keeping the lesions clean and dry, you should also try to keep the lesions covered when around others so they don’t inadvertently come in contact with them. If you have MC, avoid contact sports such as wrestling, basketball, or football unless all lesions can be covered, and try to avoid sharing sporting equipment. Additionally, swimming should be avoided unless lesions can be covered with a waterproof bandage. Lastly, if lesions do exist in the genital area, you should avoid sexual contact until they resolve.
- Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a common childhood viral skin infection that can sometimes also be seen in adults.
- It is a benign condition that will resolve on its own but can sometimes be treated by a doctor by either physically removing lesions or prescribing medicine to be taken by the mouth or applied to the skin.
- To prevent or limit MC, as well as minimize risk of scarring, it is very important to practice good hygiene like washing hands, not sharing personal items, covering the lesions and avoiding picking or shaving the lesions.