Molluscum Contagiosum


I’ve run into an interesting ethical conundrum involving Molluscum contagiosum. It’s a viral infection common among kids, where a pox-family virus causes little pale warts that usually remain from six to nine months. Once the last lesion is gone you seem to become resistant, and the complaint is rare in adults. According to Wikipedia, 17% of kids go through it, mostly between the ages of 2 and 12. There’s no antiviral treatment: usually nothing is done about molluscum as removal involves the same regimen of soaking, mechanical scrubbing and mild corrosive agents as for warts, only you have tens or hundreds of them instead of a single one.

Molluscum is painless but contagious and a little ugly: typically the parents will mind it more than the child does. My son picked it up at daycare and eventually passed it on to his kid sister. Yesterday our excellent neighbour from Korea put her kid and mine in the bathtub after they had gotten themselves grimy. When she discovered the molluscum she was pretty disturbed, never having seen it before.

If I really wanted to make sure that my kids don’t spread the virus I’d have to home-school them (which is illegal in Sweden) and keep them from other children for a year. But daycare centres and schools don’t care at all about molluscum and impose no restrictions.

Dear Reader, what is my responsibility here? I’d really rather not tell every new parent I meet that my kid has a contagious skin condition that sticks for months, “But don’t worry, it’s harmless. Wanna come over to our place and play?” And I note that nobody (not even 17%) has ever said that to me.

The kid in the pic ain’t mine, I lifted it off Google.

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  1. #1 ukko
    July 27, 2007

    We never said anything and nobody ever said anything to us. It is just part of normal childhood as far as the mores amongst our little clique go. But then again maybe we are weird…

  2. #2 Karen
    July 27, 2007

    I’ve never heard of this before. Chicken pox, sure. Just about everyone I know had it as kids. The picture looks almost like skin tags which I believe are part of the mole family.

    And home schooling is illegal in Sweden? Why?

  3. #3 Rien
    July 27, 2007

    Karen wrote: “And home schooling is illegal in Sweden? Why?”

    Well, because in Sweden, kids have to go to school (by law) and get taught things they need to know, instead of something their parents dreamed up.

  4. #4 derek
    July 27, 2007

    Molluscum contagiosum

    Is that a skin disease, or a magic spell in the Harry Potter movies?

  5. #5 Savon
    July 27, 2007

    _I and my sister had it when we were small, our dad said that the only thing that could help was whisky, so he took some…(helped him)!

    Well then he cut a piece og pigskin with some fat (sv�l), rubbed us gently with it and murmured something…and then he went out in the moonlit forrest and dug the pieces down.

    And “puuh” everything dried away!

  6. #6 Martin R
    July 27, 2007

    Karen: As Rien said, it’s a question of quality concerns. “No child left behind.” There has never been an apparatus in Sweden to quality-check home-schooling. In 1842 the Swedish Parliament instructed each state-church congregation to start a school and attendance became mandatory.

  7. #7 Christina
    July 27, 2007

    Speaking as one with ECE training and who’s spent close to 20 years working with infant-toddlers and preschoolers, I would say to you that only if someone close to the child that your child is playing with is pregnant should you have to say anything to the parent. As Ukko said, this is part of childhood, just like skeeters and no-see-ums. Now, if the local health unit or school and daycare authorities had a gripe, then yes I can see a point, but in this case, it is something you cannot treat, lasts a long time and that is not harmful to those afflicted, which puts it into a different category than, say, conjunctivitis or measles. For those diseases there are clear guidlines to follow in terms of daycares and schools etc, because they are dangerous things that can cause lasting harm or even death. As a matter of fact, it’d be more detrimental to your child’s health if it were continuously pointed out to everyone that he/she had this affliction, because that DOES have a lasting effect – on the psyche. -T

  8. #8 Savon
    July 27, 2007

    I was of course joking, noone can do that kind of magic in real life. It was as the schooldoctor said to us, because we believed so strongly in what daddy did,so we cured ourselves. A friend of mine has taken nice pict. from where I come. His name is B�rje Oskarsson.

  9. #9 Lars L
    July 28, 2007

    Savon: Wow! That is a place to come from. But not much of molluscs from that lake!? 😉

  10. #10 Martin R
    July 28, 2007

    Christina: Thank you. Our neighbour with the bath tub is hugely pregnant and has been around my daughter regularly since long before conception. Googling, I find contradictory information in the top hits:

    On one hand, “Molluscum contagiosum prevention during pregnancy is extremely important for both mother and baby. The health care provider will follow the pregnancy throughout the nine months, because the hormone changes in a womans body at this time may cause the MCV growth to escalate.”

    On the other, “Molluscum contagiosum will not affect your pregnancy in any way.”

  11. #11 Martin R
    July 28, 2007

    Savon: Wow, what a place to grow up in! Right by the famous Sarek national park. I happened to look up that name the other day and found that sarek means “weak reindeer bull who gets chased off by a stronger one”.

    What does savon mean? There’s a Finnish town named Savonlinna. Its Swedish name (which may or may not have the same meaning as the Finnish one) is Nyslott, “newcastle”. And, of course, un savon is a soap in French.

  12. #12 Svon
    July 28, 2007

    Hi Martin and Lars! Im a little “slow” now (This “Elvis-story” is too fun), but what I hope is that Im not a soap!!!

    “Svon” is smi, and means “still waters” especially when it comes from a river and flows widely over a flat land, when it is from a smaller water it is a “vielma” (the place Vilhelmina, I guess comes from this…)

    I wrote about it to comfort Martin, even children brought up in rather solitude can get this molluscs (in school and from a cousin).

    And the pic it is a “ale, ala or alet” place (a holy place high up, often to the west), and if you look at it you see why. But dont do it. Its beaty can be completely ruined, better not know.

  13. #13 ArchAsa
    July 29, 2007

    Never heard of this – but then, after you get kids you start realizing there are dozens of weird skin afflictions out there. Sounds like this is just like warts, but with the bonus that it clears itself up within a fairly short time without painful treatments (unlike the true warts I had as a high school student – now that was torture!).

    Being a kid means going thruogh about a 1000 or more biological testings during childhood, from 200 different types of colds to weird and potentially dangerous viruses. I would inform parents of kids who are playing very closely with my own kid and who notices the warts. Just to explain. But not inform just about every kid your kids run into at playgrounds or even daycare. The daycare personel can inform parents in general if they feel it is needed. Like you said, we parents would probably be the ones to react, while the kid will barely register it after the first curious examination. There are eye, ear and throat infections, lice and coughs and whatnot that truly affect both child and adults to worry about.

    Speaking as a parent, I am WAY more concerned with car accidents, falling out of trees, choking hazards and the poking out of eyes, than some warts. It’s life.

  14. #14 Martin R
    July 29, 2007

    Thank you! I think it’s kind of cool though that it’s AD 2007, and we still find insects living in our kids’ hair.

    And about cars — one of the things the 1960s architects who designed Fisks�tra did right was this. They closed off the entire ground-surface of the housing development to cars, letting them instead roost in subterranean garages reachable by the lower ends of the same elevator shafts and staircases that us dwellers use to reach our apartments. This means that every street here is a safe playground. In addition, every kitchen window, many of which are equipped with Turkish grannies, face the streets. This means that our area is absolutely lethal to child-molesters, who prefer instead to cruise affluent villa-burbs with low population density in their cars.

  15. #15 Johan Richter
    July 31, 2007

    You can apply for permission to home-school. I am not sure how often the application is granted but I have myself been involved in granting an application for partial home-schooling.

  16. #16 Darla Winters
    June 24, 2008

    I just hope It will go away…my fear Is that It wont go away,I can’t go to friends,cousins,family’s house because I don’t want to give It to my loved one’s.I don’t want my baby to have these thing’s on his face.I feel horrible,and don’t know who to tell because people might freak what I’m trying to say Is,Is there any hope?

  17. #17 Mrs Vidal
    September 22, 2008

    Hello!Thanks for posting this source of information,as parents we learned so much because as of now our children have this kind of disease.At first we just thought that it is just normal warts where it appeared on the trunk under the armpit of our child,but we became aware and worried when we noticed that it began to multiply and my child began to scratch as he felt the itchyness around.Then his brother also started to have it on his arm.I don’t know where it come from,Only then we learned about this disease when we see a dermatologist,we still need to comeback for the medication.

  18. #18 Martin R
    September 22, 2008

    There is no medication that I know of. Please enlighten us! My kids’ molluscum healed well and disappeared, though it took time.

  19. #19 jennuh
    November 13, 2008

    My son had Molluscum and his Pediatrician had no answers. I decided to try something that I learned while studying to be a Nutrition Counselor. I used a safety pin to pierce open liquid garlic capsules and saturated the infected area with the liquid garlic each evening before putting my son in his sleeper and to bed. The smell was not the most pleasant, however, the Molluscum was gone in less than a matter of weeks. I hope that this method may work for others as well. I also agree, the parents are more bothered by the Molescum than the child. My son never complained!

  20. #20 Marcia Roberts
    January 6, 2009

    Hey! I am offended by the homeschooling comments! I am a home school Mom w/a BS in Elem. Educ. and I certainly do not “dream up” what to teach my kids…we follow state standards and get our kids tested yearly by the local school…they take the same standardized tests public school kids do and their scores are higher! Please don’t lump all of us into a “category”! Thank you! Oh…and thank you for the info. on the rash…very helpful! 😀

  21. #21 Martin R
    January 7, 2009

    Marcia, I think the outside world largely associates US home schooling with religious fundamentalism, where kids are home-schooled not because it’s a long ride to the municipal school, but because the parents want to control their access to religiously unvetted information.

    Hope your kids lose the molluscum quickly!

  22. #22 Heather
    January 8, 2009

    My daughter has this condition right now. She is 3 and attends pre-school full time. I don’t know who she caught this from, but they are under her arm and the doctor says they spread if one of them opens. My daughter had one get large and it almost looked like a white head. I tried to clean it out and that made it spread. DO NOT pick or try and pop these! LEAVE THEM ALONE. The doctor says there is medication but it’s rarely used since it’s heavy medication. They can spread but usually go away on their own.

  23. #23 holli
    March 31, 2009

    I’m a 17 year old girl and honestly i think i have this….

    initially i thought i had genital warts (={ but then when i started lookin at stuff online i realized that what i had couldn’t be that – i found this molluscum skin thing and honestly it looks just like what i have…. but i’m afraid of the doubt and i wanna know for sure ya know? it is on my vagina and initially i thought it was from shaving but it hasn’t gone away. i’m beginning to be a little frightened by it. but it looks just like that image and other images i’ve seen


  24. #24 Martin R
    April 1, 2009

    Holli, better see a doctor. Sounds like it might be genital warts. They’re contagious but treatable.

  25. #25 brandi
    April 9, 2009

    This image is NOT genital warts. Genital warts appear 3-6 months after sexual contact with an infected individual. They are painless, have a heaped up appearance and usually occur in small clumps around the vulva or penis in numbers of 6-10. Molluscum contagiosum has two groups of people it affects. 1) children, spread by direct contactwith another child and toys and stuff 2) adolescents and adults can get it through sexual contact and should be tested for HIV b/c molluscum in an adult often signifies an immunocompromised state. In children this is typically self- limiting, but can be treated by removal or less invasively with trichloroacetic acid (vinegar).

  26. #26 brandi
    April 9, 2009

    If it is on your vagina it is very unlikely to be molluscum, sorry. It is most likely to either be genital warts caused by the HPV virus, or secondary syphillis. Both are very treatable but if left untreated may cause later cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and ultimately infertility. Seek treatment. Syphillis is treated with Penicillin G and genital warts are treated with acyclovir or valtrex. Just ask your provider to examine the area. Good luck!

  27. #27 Sadie
    June 23, 2009

    My daughter got this in January and is just now finished with her last bump…unfortunatly her little brother just popped up his first one. (which is frustrating because the pediatrician says they can just pass it back and forth for years) Short of keeping them both in a sterile bubble, not much we can do short of the obvious like no sharing baths or towels, etc. My Pediatrician has us using Aldara which eats the skin up (and costs $140/~month in the US) Doing research it looks like if I just wait it may just go away rather than go through the pain of this horrible medication. Grrrr… Member of the 17% club

  28. #28 Martin R
    June 23, 2009

    Yeah, I think this is one of those things where the treatments are really more about the parent’s needs than the kid’s. Hope your little boy gets through it swiftly.

  29. #29 carrie
    July 21, 2009

    I have several children and my oldest came down with this about two years ago. Since then, it has spread to most of the others. Each child had it for about 4-6 months. I actually found that if I did pop one, it would heal completely within a day and stay gone. They never spread more from popping it either. Maybe theirs is a mild case. They mostly appeared in armpits or a few on the neck. One had only a few near her eyebrow. Every child that has already had it and has cleared up has not gotten it again.

  30. #30 joanne
    August 15, 2009

    My daughter grew one on her upper arm really young (a couple of months old). the nanother grew close by. Then one appeared on her leg which she picked and then it went. She got a few more individual ones on her leg and every so often they would swell red with a big whitehead and eventually disappear. last week I found her covered in a rash(face, legs and arms) that I assumed was chicken pox. She had no temperature or illness whatsoever. As the week went on I was unhappy about it as 2 dr’s could not confirm it to be chicken pox. I took her to see a dermatoligist who took one look at it and said it was the immune system attacking Molluscm. She was covered in antibiotic cream and I go back the hospital in 2 days to see what the verdict is. Has anyone elses child had an attack like this? In one way I am thinking it;s a good thing because the immune system has recognised the virus and then that will be it. But she only had the 2 that have been on her arm for almost 2 years (she is 2 and 3 months now) so to see so many red marls on her have amazed me. the Dr said that they can be on the skin but not visible.
    Can anyone enlighten me further?

  31. #31 Martin R
    August 16, 2009

    If the rash has anyting to do with molluscum or chicken pox, then the antibiotic cream will do nothing. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections. Molluscum and chicken pox are caused by viruses.

  32. #32 Lesley
    October 14, 2009

    I’m wondering if it has anything to do with having chicken pox about 5 yrs ago, because my son did. He also has ecsema, but when I took him to a doctor about a couple of these bumps and he said they were probably from an insect bite(looking back now, I don’t think his diagnosis was correct) but the larger one on his back disappeared after a month or so, now he has around 8 on his trunk which are starting to fade.

  33. #33 Martin R
    October 14, 2009

    As far as I know the various kinds of pox virus don’t cause the same symptoms or influence each other.

  34. #34 Jennifer
    November 25, 2009

    I have a 5 year old son who has had these little bumps on his bottom for months and recently found another on his neck. This morning he complained about his “butt pimple”, his name for them, hurting. I had a look and found the one cluster, seemed infected and red with a large white head on it. Almost looked like a boil. I applied a hot compress and, for lack of a better term, this thing erupted! Needless to say I took him to the pediatrican. He had told me before about the virus but this made me worry. Apparently when these open up like this, it is now considered to be impetego. I had this as a kid and let me tell you, I was absolutly covered from head to toe. It is very contageous when the soars are open. Have a read about impetego on wikipedia. My Dr. recommended to keep the area dry and covered to prevent him from scratching and spreading the virus.
    Good luck moms and dads!!

  35. #35 Nursing Student
    December 15, 2009

    This was mainly for Holli and then I realized her original post was dated way back in April, so to whoever finds this helpful. Good luck with treatment!:) While uncommon, it is possible to have contracted molluscum at your age. I am 21 year old nursing student and contracted molluscum this past summer in my anal region. It is mainly spread through sexual contact, but can also be transmitted by contact with things such as the sharing of towels or bathing suits. (I think I most likely got it by sharing towels since I had not had any sexual contact at the time of my transmission). Its transmission is more likely in humid areas as well. However, please get tested! The disease does resemble Herpes and is rare in older populations. (My primary physician initially told me I had Herpes due to its resemblance, which was later proved wrong after 2 diagnostic tests). Molluscum may be treated by the complete expulsion of the vesicle, but it must be done by a doctor, because its rupture without the complete removal will result in its spread. My doctor ruptured it, then used nitrogen peroxide to burn the remainder off. (I’m guessing they don’t do this for younger children due to the pain and the fact that their is no harm in having them, besides their nasty appearance.) Schedule a doctor’s appointment, and in the meantime, wash all of your towels and items of close contact (razors, PJ bottoms, underwear, sheets, etc.) to prevent their spread. Be sure to wash your hands if you touch them. Hope this helps!

  36. #36 Dawn
    December 20, 2009

    I know, I know. This post is as old as the hills but I smiled at your, “If I really wanted to make sure that my kids don’t spread the virus I’d have to home-school them,” comment.

    My two have always been homeschooled. Although they’re pretty socially active kids I sort of hoped that not being in school meant they wouldn’t pick up some of the stuff school kids are famous for spreading around.

    Not so.

    My daughter had warts AND lice before she was 7. Darn it. As long as kids play with kids, whether schooled or homeschooled, they’ll infect each other with one gross thing after another!:)

  37. #37 Martin R
    December 21, 2009

    It does get a bit better once they’re upright and quit sharing saliva and mucus indiscriminately with their buddies.

  38. #38 red pepper
    December 22, 2009

    i’m beginning to be a little frightened by it. but it looks just like that image and other images i’ve seen

  39. #39 acai
    December 22, 2009

    I was of course joking, noone can do that kind of magic in real life. It was as the schooldoctor said to us, because we believed so strongly in what daddy did,so we cured ourselves.

  40. #40 lisa
    November 1, 2011

    my daurther as theses as it sounds the same as what ive st read above but hers go red sum times n says they hurt is there any cream i could buy her 2 stop them from itching n going red pleses x

  41. #41 Odaat
    December 4, 2011

    My little sister has had these for a while now, I was curious to know, as I am 18 whether or not I can contract this virus.
    I acidently scratched one whilst we were playing, and I’m a little worried I can catch them as you said they are contagious, but seeing as I am much older, what are the chance? Does anyone know? Regards. Jade. x

  42. #42 Martin R
    December 4, 2011

    As I understand the Wikipedia article, adults and children don’t get infected by the same strain of molluscum virus. So you should not have to worry about catching your kid sister’s molluscum.

  43. #43 Jennifer
    February 6, 2012

    My daughter has this. It is heart breaking for me to look at, especially during the summer months when she wants to wear her bathing suit. There seems to be nothing out there that helps it.

  44. #44 Martin R
    February 6, 2012

    Aaaw, poor kid! But hang on in there. It’ll go away on its own. And she can wear her bathing suit despite the bumps.

  45. #45 Valerie Dent
    March 3, 2012

    My daughter has had this condition for about 9 months, mainly effecting her arm and one side of her body and sometimes they look so sore, Then this week she is covered in hundreds of small red spots. She isn’t unwell except from being itchy. The doctor has given her some hydrogen peroxide cream ( a disinfectant)he reckons shes now got chicken pox as well. She had them quite bad as a baby.
    We’re seeing the doctor again before school starts on monday to see if shes allowed back.
    I do hope as in Joannes post (2007) that this is a sign the body is recognising the virus and preparing to attack it.
    The gp is talking of cryotherapy, but shes only 5 unless he can provide evidence theres no way I’m letting him cause her pain on the off chance it might make it disappear.

  46. #46 Martin R
    March 3, 2012

    Better just wait molluscum out. But if your daughter had chicken pox as a baby, she is now almost certainly immune to that.

  47. #47 Zeeshan
    March 18, 2012

    i m 24 n have bumps on ma throat .. .. .. it does not bleed when i shave .. .. .. upto my knowledge i should wait for 6 to 12 month to let it be grown fully and then disappear with precaution of cleanliness and using towel and others.

    am i right ??? if not then guide me plz

  48. #48 Samantha Goodale
    March 26, 2012

    I just found out today at my sons doctors appointment that this is what he has. It has gotten extremely bad in the last couple weeks and I was told by the doctor that it can last 2 to 4 years. I was also told by the doctor that my son could go back to school tomorrow but when I called the school to inform them that it was not chicken pox that he had and told them what it was they were a little skeptical on allowing him in the school. The thing is he has had this all school year and they haven’t said a word. I then received a phone call from the principal a couple hours later telling me that my son shouldn’t be attending school until they are cleared up. As well as my son needs to have a doctors note as well before attending school. So it is back off to the doctors tomorrow to get a doctors note saying he can go back to school.
    Now my biggest concern is I have a 9 month old baby girl who is already sick and he doesn’t wanna leave her alone. Any suggestions on how I can prevent her from getting it as well as I have been told by the doctor that it is highly contagious among children through skin to skin contact.
    Thank You.

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