Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum, a skin infection caused by a poxvirus, include the appearance of flesh-colored bumps. Learn to spot the signs of molluscum contagiosum in children.
What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is a type of skin infection that is caused by a similar virus (the poxvirus) that brings about common skin warts. The molluscum rash looks like tiny, flesh-colored bumps, and infection happens through direct skin-to-skin contact or sharing towels. It is often seen in children between 2 and 12 years of age, and the incubation period, or time from infection to the development of symptoms, is approximately one to two months.
Symptoms and Signs of Molluscum Contagiosum
Symptoms include a rash that appears with small, smooth, round raised bumps that are usually flesh-colored and have a little dent in the center. The bumps can also look pale red to yellow to grayish white.
The bumps can be found all over the child's body except for the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They are rarely seen on the face. The bumps usually do not bother the child, but they can be tender or itchy, and they develop wherever initial contact with the virus occurred. Most children have 5 to 10 bumps, which may appear alone or in clusters, but each spot tends to be separate from the others.
How to Prevent Molluscum Contagiosum
It is difficult to prevent your child from getting infected with molluscum contagiosum. If there is a rash, encourage your child not to pick or scratch the lesions, so the bacteria will not spread to other parts of the body. Scratching could also cause impetigo, a bacterial skin infection. Cut your child's fingernails short to prevent this, and encourage frequent hand washing.
Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum
The molluscum rash usually disappears without treatment, sometimes after a few weeks. It may persist for several years, but most disappear within one year.
A child may break the top of the skin by scratching, which can lead to a secondary infection with bacteria. If the child has a very large number of molluscum bumps, if they spread rapidly, or if they appear to be infected, consult the doctor for recommended treatment. Infected lesions may need to be treated with antibiotics or, in some cases, the bumps may need to be removed. This can be done by numbing the skin and cutting off the lesions or by rubbing the bumps with a substance that stimulates the body to fight off the virus. Freezing (cryotherapy) is also an option. Each of these treatment methods is effective in most cases, but can leave scars, and the rash may return.
If a child has problems with her immune systems, through cancer or HIV/AIDS, she may experience huge eruptions of molluscum; in such cases, always consult a physician.
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