Molluscum contagiosum occurs relatively frequently in children. This viral skin disease closely resembles chicken pox and spreads easily through both direct and indirect contact. It’s not coincidental that the molluscum contagiosum and chicken pox have a similar appearance – they’re both produced by viruses in the same family. One notable difference is that while chicken pox tends to have itchy, burning pustules, the bumpy rash of molluscum contagiosum doesn’t normally itch. It also doesn’t come with the nausea and vomiting common to chickenpox.
What does molluscum contagiosum look like?
Small flesh-colored bumps, but no redness or inflammation usually indicate molluscum contagiosum. It will most likely appear on a child’s face or upper torso, particularly in the armpits and on the neck. Bumps will only appear red if they become infected for any reason. The strange bumps can actually be scraped off without any discomfort, but it’s not a good idea to do so. Each bump is a pustule containing fluid that’s infected with the live virus. Releasing the fluid can spread infection to other parts of the skin or to the people.
How do you get molluscum contagiosum?
The highly contagious nature of molluscum contagiosum allows it to spread easily from one host to another. Any direct contact with infected fluid can result in a new infection. Among children, normal play or childish fights that involve scratching may spread the disease. The toys and bedding of an infected child will likely also be infected. If the disease is spread by a scratch, the pustules will likely form along the line of disrupted skin.
Adults can get molluscum contagiosum also, the better hygiene practices among adults mean that it doesn’t spread as easily. For the most part, it is considered a sexually transmitted disease in adults. Obviously, other types of contact can spread it too, but adults are less likely to have that kind of close contact, except in a sexual context.
What should you do if you discover molluscum contagiosum?
Like all viral infections, molluscum contagiosum is self-limiting. It will resolve itself without treatment, but it can take several months. Doctors often choose to treat the disease so that it will go away faster, reduce the risk of spreading and reduce the risk of any related complications. While serious issues from molluscum contagiosum are rare, they can include secondary infection or the spread of the disease to immune compromised individuals.
Pay attention to the health of your child’s skin. Unidentified bumps, especially those that appear quickly and clusters, should be evaluated by your family doctor or pediatrician. The bumps may or may not have a visible white core, and most likely will not be red and inflamed. Also bear in mind that molluscum contagiosum and chickenpox look very similar, but the latter can cause much more serious health issues. Your doctor will be able to test and confirm exactly which virus your child has, and can recommend treatment that will hopefully keep it from being spread to the rest of the family.