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When Molluscum Contagiosum Occurs in Young Children

Group of kidsMolluscum is a common skin condition in children particularly under the age of 14. It can also occurs in adults. The UK Institute of Primary Care & Public Health at Cardiff University has recently carried out a study where they investigated the natural history of the condition along with whether it was passed between between family members and the impact on the children's quality of life. This viral infection causes itchy little lumps or bumps, which look like warts, to appear on the skin. Eight out of ten cases affect children under the age of five.

How was the study carried out?

According to main researcher, Jonathan Olsen, they recruited 306 children during 2013 and showed that, on average, molluscum lesions last for 12 months. However, 30% of those children still had lesions at 18 months while a further 13% still had lesions after 24 months. They found that while most children experienced only a small effect on their quality of life from the condition, 10% were severely affected by the large or very large impact on their quality of life. They further found that the condition was shown to be highly contagious with further transmission between children living in the same household coming in as high as 40%.

What conclusions did the researchers reach?

Not surprisingly, the researchers felt that parents should be more aware of the risk of transmission to other children living in the home and that the idea that molluscum contagiosum is just a benign, trivial condition should be challenged. While molluscum is not a serious or life threatening condition, they emphasized the need to commence treatment for all children with molluscum.

How can a child become infected with molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosum is spread when children come into direct contact with someone who is infected, or when they handle something (clothes, toys, towels etc) which someone with the condition has used. The main symptom is the appearance of white or pink bumps and lumps forming on the face or body. The bumps are usually soft and smooth and may have an indented center. They contain a build up of pus-like fluid and can be painful if pressed or touched. After becoming infected, it can take several weeks for the bumps and lumps to appear and all the time the infection can keep on spreading across the body. It can take 6 to 8 weeks before a crusty scab makes its appearance. The affected child will only stop being infectious once the molluscum heals and fades.

How is treatment for molluscum carried out?

Treatment works best when started early because then there are usually only a few growths. In the same way as warts, your child's doctor can freeze off the molluscum bumps and lumps with liquid nitrogen or scrape them off with a sharp instrument. Other doctors will apply a chemical agent or cream, such as salicylic acid, tretinoin, cantharidin, benzoyl peroxide or other wart medicine; or administer an oral drug called cimetidine. Unfortunately, most of these can be painful procedures carrying the risk of scarring.

Help prevent molluscum from spreading to others

And to other parts of the body by:
  • Avoiding the sharing of clothes, facecloths, toothbrushes and toys.
  • Changing and washing your child's towels, bedding and nightclothes daily.
  • Encouraging your child not to touch, scratch or rub the bumps.
  • Frequent washing of hands with soap and water.
  • Keeping areas with bumps clean.
  • Where possible, covering each bump with clothing or a watertight bandage, especially before participating in activities in which equipment is shared or skin contact can occur.
  • Moisturizing the skin if dry.
The good news is that after contracting molluscum, the affected child will usually be immune from this condition for the rest of his or her life.