“Molluscum contagiosum” is not a dreaded spell from a Harry Potter story, although it sounds like one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is a common viral infection in some children ages 1 to 10. So if, out of nowhere, your child has developed a rash with painless, little, round bumps in the center, the molluscum contagiosum might be the guilty party.
As a disease, molluscum contagiosum is a viral contamination that spreads effortlessly and quickly. At the same time, it’s relatively harmless, but the infection can keep going for some time. The bumps or skin lesions may occur almost anywhere on the body, but you will usually find them on the torso, armpits, face, neck, backs of knees and arms, and the groin area. They are skin-colored, dome-shaped 2-3mm bumps with a central “dell” ( a tiny indentation).
How can your child get molluscum contagiosum?
Since it’s a contagious skin virus, you get it from skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it. So the more crowded your environment, the more risk you have in getting it. Moreover, kids who have atopic dermatitis (eczema) will be more at risk.
Touching the items from an infected person (like an unwashed towel) or sharing unwashed clothes, toys, or sports equipment will allow the virus to travel to your skin. It’s also possible to spread molluscum contagiosum in public swimming pools and shower facilities.
The only sign of this skin infection is small bumps on the skin. These bumps tend to be painless, but they can itch. And you will want to avoid scratching or picking at the bumps, lest the virus spread to other parts of the body. Germs on your fingernails can infect your molluscum contagiosum with bacteria and make the bumps itchier and more painful.
How long does a molluscum contagiosum infection last?
If you have a healthy immune system, the bumps may clear up on their own. On average, the bumps clear in 6 to 18 months or longer without treatment. Sometimes, this takes longer. Treatment from a board-certified dermatologist may be recommended if the bumps become painful and infected with bacteria. Unlike other viral infections, it is possible to get reinfected after you’ve recovered if you are exposed to the virus again.
How can I prevent a molluscum contagiosum infection?
You can decrease your risk of contracting the virus with good hygiene practices. Washing your hands regularly can help if you are in a high-risk environment. In addition, you should:
- Disinfect hard surfaces, toys, tables, and door handles.
- Avoid sharing towels, sheets, and clothing.
- Wipe down all gym equipment before use.
- Avoid public pools, locker rooms, and other crowded, humid environments.