Kids Health: Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum Contagiosum

This post is by regular contributor Naomi Cook.

I have just come from the playground where I witnessed a little girl clambering over the equipment with a naked underarm revealing a cluster of Molluscum Contagiosum (MC)… Mollusc what??? What is that??? Here is a little information on a skin rash commonly affecting kids.

What is it?
MC is a skin infection caused by the poxvirus. It is common in children and young adults and tends to affect boys more than girls.2 It is thought that the incidence is increasing.1 The incubation period (time from exposure to when symptoms develop) is generally 2-7 weeks2 but it can take up to 6 months.1

What does it look like?
MC is commonly referred to as a ‘rash’ however it is characterised by bumps/spots that are pearly white but with time can develop a tiny dimple in the centre. The spots contain a white cheesy like substance that discharges quite easily.2 They can be 2-5mm in size1 but can be as large as 3cm.2

What body part is affected?
Spots may appear anywhere on the skin, such as the face, neck, abdomen, arms, underarms, legs and genital area. The rash below occurs on the trunk of a two year old girl.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Note that on the lower part of her stomach it looks like another lesion is forming.

Spots can appear alone but tend to appear in clusters as each spot is capable of infecting surrounding areas of skin. In immunocompromised individuals the spots can become widespread.2 Adults may get MC in their genital areas which can be spread through sexual contact. It is possible that children may develop anal/genital lesions through touching this region with infected hands. It is worth saying that it is routine to check children for sexual abuse if a skin infection of the genitals occur,2 however the presence of MC in the genital region of a child does not necessarily mean abuse has occurred.

How does it spread?
MC is spread through direct contact with an infected person, through sharing toys, linen, towels, clothes and washcloths, gym/play equipment and benches.2 The virus does not enter into the blood stream and therefore is a local, not a systemic infection. Since the spots are capable of infecting local areas of surrounding skin, the infection can become self perpetuating. In addition an individual can spread the infection to multiple body parts with their own hands.

How can I treat it?
Although unsightly, the spots do not tend to cause any discomfort (although some may itch a little), therefore treatment can be minimal. Individual spots will generally last 2-3 months, can last 6-12 months. A group of spots can take up to 18 months to completely resolve.3 Some spots can remain for up to four years in those with a weakened immunity.1

Lesions may be removed for the purpose of preventing further spread both in the infected person and also to others. Lesions can be removed through treatment such as cryotherpy or through surgical removal. Removal of lesions is associated with an increased risk of scarring. 3 There are also a few creams that a doctor may prescribe.2 The infection will be gone once the spots have disappeared, the virus will not lay ‘dormant’ in the body like, for example, the herpes virus.1


Bacterial infection can occur  especially if the child is scratching the area. Seek medical attention if this occurs as a local antibiotic ointment may be necessary.

How can I prevent the infection spreading to other body parts and to other people?
Children with MC should have the infected area covered up whilst in contact with other children. Clothes may provide a barrier but be careful when removing them not to touch non-infected areas of skin with the part of clothing that was in contact with the spots.

Dressings can be applied and water proof dressings are necessary if swimming. In addition children with MC should have their own kickboards and obviously not share towels with other children (or adults).1 After swimming the kickboards should be disinfected and dressings discarded at home.1 Dressings can be removed at night when there is little chance of transmitting the infection to others.

The CDC states that children who attend daycare should wear waterproof dressings on infected areas that are not covered by clothing.1 They also state that if MC is present in the genital area in these children then the spots should also be covered to prevent contamination of toilet seating. 1

The Royal Hospital for Children in Melbourne recommends that children with MC have showers as opposed to baths to avoid viral spread in bath water.4

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article should NEVER be used as a substitute for the advice of a licensed physician. The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Please see a physician if you think you or your child are unwell.

{Images: thanks to Shannon}


  1. CDC: What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
  2. eMedicineHealth: Molluscum Contagiosum
  3. PubMed Health: Molluscum Contagiosum
  4. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne: Molluscum


  1. Interesting post! My eldest had this for close to 12 months. They actually went away just as they seemed to be getting worse. Within a week, they had completely cleared up. At the time I had been “researching” (googling!) natural remedies for Molluscum Contagiosum. Supposedly, both salt water and urine are believed to be good for it. In the week my son’s went away we had spent a lot of time at the beach and I even tried the urine….Gross, I know, but the suggestion I had come across was to pat my son’s wet nappy on the Molluscum area.Simple enough so I gave it a shot. I have never known if it was either these things or if it was just coincidental!

  2. Naomi Cook says:

    Hmm, an interesting case study! 😉

  3. kirsty higgins says:

    My four youngest children have all had this condition, it obviously just passed along from one to the other. We were told to use ‘Leukosilk’ which is a white sticky plaster on a roll (available at the pharmacy), and we got great results with it. Just cut up small sections of plaster and apply to each individual ‘bump’, it appears to burst the ‘bump’ and then they dissappear. The plaster also helps stop the spread and stays on for days.

  4. I’m curious about something. You said that this is a form of the pox virus and it is on the rise. Maybe you ran across the answer to my question in your research: Does this possibly have anything to do with the varicella vaccine being used more and more?

    1. Naomi Cook says:

      You ask an interesting question. The only possible answer is “No.” I’ll explain why:
      In a nutshell, the two viruses actually belong to different viral families. Although Varicella Zoster is commonly known as “chickenpox” it is actually a member of the herpes family. Whereas MC and Smallpox are poxviruses.

      You also might be interested to know that clinically, the differences between the two viruses are huge. MC is a local infection whereas varicella is systemic. Infection with and vaccination of Varicella can confer long lasting immunity whereas MC can occur as many times as there is exposure to infection. Varicella can lay dormant in the nerves (where stimulus can later result in shingles) whereas MC does not reside in the body once the skin symptoms resolve.

      Thanks for that!

  5. My daughter had this. She was one of the rare cases who has a very adverse reaction to it, so she basically had crater-like lesions in along the back of her leg that were super susceptible to infection. Any time she was sick or stressed by an allergic reaction to a food, the lesions would bleed. It was really, really bad. It took nearly four months to clear up and our pediatrician told us that cases like hers usually take several years to cycle out of the body.

    Ugh. That’s all I have to say about that. Just UGH.

    1. Naomi Cook says:

      I don’t suppose you have any photos of the lesions? If you do
      And are happy to show me, perhaps you could email them in? Thanks for sharing that!

  6. Bernadine says:

    I have two family members that have this and they believe it was caught through the swimming pool! Dermeze is a product from the chemist which assists

  7. Megan @ Writing Out Loud says:

    My little girl has this, and has had it for months now. It doesn’t concern her, it isn’t itchy, and it’s getting heaps better. The first time I got a doctor to look at her I was told there was nothing we could do about it, the next time we were given a cream which has helped reduce it.

    Both doctors told me the only time I need to cover it up is when she scratches some spots open.

    Seems it’s pretty common!

  8. Naomi Cook says:

    This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of doctors advising this. Strange when the CDC is clear that they should be covered at all times. A lesion may erupt spontaneously…

  9. My son had these spots which started on his face for 9 months. In that time I tried a lot of things such has colloidal silver, manuka honey, tea tree oil, lemon myrtle none of these worked for my son. I also tried apple cider vinegar and picking the spots although both these methods worked on individual spots I would not recommend them because of the pain they caused. My little boy got a lot round his mouth I use to use anti bacterial wipes to try and try and stop them spreading (I don’t know if this helped, it certainly did not get rid of them.) When I went on holiday I happened to buy superdrug antiseptic wipes, they irritated the skin and made the spots look like when chicken pox scab over I was going to stop using them and then I realised the wipes were getting rid of the spots. I would recommend you try this on one or two first a few times a day. I probably did it for 3 weeks the spots did try to come back but just reapplied this and it dried them out and they were gone. The ingredients in the wipe was aqua,alcohol denat, glycerin,chlorhexidine digluconate,aloe barbadadensis (aloe vera) extract, citric acid, potassium sorbate,sodium benzoate,sodium sulfite. I know each child is different I hope this helps you like it did for us I know how stressful it can be. If it does or doesn’t work could you please comment I would be interested to know. Good luck

  10. Anonymous says:

    My 21 month old has this on her vagina outer labia I read on another website its a std and children with it in private areas are thought to be abused! Please help should I be worried the only other person who has ever been alone with my baby is my mother and my grandfather and the doctor didnt seem concerned nor did she mention the abuse part to me am taking her back in the morning literally in 2 hours I havent slept all weekend jst the thought makes me sick to my stomach

    1. Hi just wondering if you got a reply to your question? As my grand daughter who has just started school has these in the same place

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