Molluscum contagiosum is one of those common conditions that affects kids that no one seems to know about! The reality is that 1.2-1.4% of kids under 14 will suffer from this condition so it might be no harm to be aware of it!
So what is it?
Molluscum Contagiosum is a viral infection which can take up to 18 months to clear completely. The good news is that it does generally clear by itself and is actually fairly harmless in most cases.
The symptoms usually include a number of small firm raised papules (spots) on the skin – distinctive as the spots normally have a little dimple in the middle. The spots are usually pale or slightly pink. It tends to spread around the body but usually no more than 30 spots appear. Thankfully the spots are not sore or painful but they can be a little itchy. Clusters of spots often occur in certain areas such as the armpit, the groin or behind the knees. Like many infections it is not normal to get it more than once but it can happen.
What causes it?
It is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus. It is spread by direct skin to skin contact or sharing items such as towels and clothes.
So what do I do?
If you suspect Molluscum Contagiosum in your child then it’s a good idea to take a trip to the GP for diagnosis. Sometimes the doctor may want to take a little sample (biopsy) to test one of the spots for the MC virus. The doctor will also want to be sure they are happy with any spots which are near sensitive areas such as eyelids to ensure they don’t become sore or complicated. They will also consider your child’s medical history to ensure there are no underlying causes such as medications or illness which may cause a weakened immune system. Once the doctor has done their bit they will advise you on the best treatment for your child. I’ll discuss treatment next!
Mostly this virus is self limiting and whilst it can last for many months, it is generally harmless, and so treatment is not normally recommended in children. Obviously if some of the spots become irritated or uncomfortable treatment is considered but only when necessary as the treatments can be sore and can cause potential damage to the skin.
Treatments include topical applications such as gels and creams which contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin, imiquimod and podophyllotoxin but your doctor will take into account that these prescription products can cause skin irritation and damage, not to mention discomfort, so with any luck your child’s spots will remain painless and disappear with time on their own. Another treatment is cryotherapy which is also commonly used on warts. This involves each spot being individually frozen with liquid nitrogen for a few seconds. It can take a few attempts with a few weeks break between treatments so unfortunately is not an easy option either. Specialists may consider other methods if the spots are having a serious impact on your child’s quality of life but I suppose it’s important to remember here that in most cases the spots are harmless and self limiting and treatment at all is not usually required.
- Prevent the spread as much as you can by trying to stop your child scratching and itching the spots. You can also help by not allowing them to share baths or towels and clothing. It’s really important to know that it is not likely to pass it on to other family members or friends during normal activities so there is no need to avoid creche, school or general daily activities!
- Help to prevent scarring by stopping your little one from itching the spots. This will also help to reduce the chance of a secondary bacterial infection which will in turn also help to reduce the risk of scarring.
- Be vigilant with your child’s eyes – if you feel they are being affected by spots (any signs of redness, irritation or swelling) then do seek out a doctors opinion.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page or my website contact page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262.