Molluscum Contagiosum in Children: Care Instructions

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Molluscum contagiosum (say "moh-LUS-kum kun-tay-jee-OH-sum") is a skin infection caused by a virus. It causes small pearly or flesh-colored bumps. The bumps may itch. It can also cause a rash. The virus spreads easily but is usually not harmful. However, the infection can be worse in people with a weak immune system.

Molluscum contagiosum is most common in young children. But it can also happen in teens and adults.

Without treatment, the infection usually goes away within 6 to 18 months. In some cases, it may take several years for it to go away. You may want treatment for your child if the bumps bother your child or you want to keep them from spreading. Treatments include removing the bumps or freezing or putting medicine on them. Treatment depends on where the bumps are.

Children who have molluscum contagiosum may attend school, day care, and sports as long as the bumps are completely covered by clothing or bandages.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Teach your child not to share personal items like clothing or sports gear. This includes towels, washcloths, helmets, and goggles.
  • Keep the bumps covered with a bandage, medical tape, or clothing when your child is around people. Have your child use waterproof bandages when swimming or playing sports.
  • Teach your child to avoid spreading the bumps to other parts of the body. For example, teens should avoid shaving near the bumps. And don't scratch or try to remove the bumps.
  • Sexually active teens should not have sex if they have bumps in their genital area. Having treatment can help avoid spreading them to any sexual partners.
  • If your child's doctor prescribes medicine, use it exactly as directed.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Pain, warmth, or swelling in the skin.
    • Redness near the bumps.
    • A fever.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.