Should Your Child See a Doctor?
Is this your child's symptom?
- Molluscum are small raised growths that have a smooth, waxy surface
- The medical name is molluscum contagiosum
- Viral infection of the skin
- A doctor has told you your child has molluscum or
- Your child has had close contact with another person who has it
Symptoms of Molluscum
- Small bumps with a waxy or pearl-colored, smooth surface
- May have a dimple (indent) in center
- Bumps are firm with a core of white material.
- Are many different sizes, from pinhead to ¼ inch (3 to 6 mm) across
- Can occur anywhere on the body, but usually stay in just one area
- Are sometimes itchy, but not painful
- Usually age 2 to 12 years
- Most infected children get 5 to 10 of them
Cause of Molluscum
- They are caused by a poxvirus. This is a different virus than the one that causes warts.
- Friction or picking at them causes them to increase in number.
To Treat or Not to Treat?
- Some doctors advise not treating them if there are only a few. Reason: They are harmless and painless.
- They have a natural tendency to heal and go away on their own.
When Special Treatment is Considered
- Your child picks at them
- They are in areas of friction (for example, the armpit)
- They are spreading quickly or
- You feel they are a cosmetic problem
Prevent Spread to Others
- Avoid baths or hot tubs with other children. Reason: Can spread in warm water.
- Also, avoid sharing washcloths or towels.
- Contact sports: Can spread to other team members. They should be covered or treated.
- Time it takes to get them: 4 to 8 weeks after close contact.
When to Call for Molluscum
Call Doctor Now or Go to ER
- Redness or red streak spreading from molluscum with fever
- Your child looks or acts very sick
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Redness or red streak spreading from molluscum without fever
- You think your child needs to be seen
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Molluscum on the face
- 4 or more molluscum
- Your child can't stop picking at the molluscum
- Pus is draining from the molluscum (Apply antibiotic ointment 3 times per day until seen)
- On treatment more than 2 weeks and new molluscum appear
- On treatment more than 12 weeks and molluscum not gone
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations
If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.
Care Advice for Molluscum
- What You Should Know About Molluscum:
- They are harmless and painless.
- Wart-removing acids are not helpful.
- Duct tape treatment will make them go away faster.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Duct Tape - Cover the Molluscum:
- Covering them with duct tape can irritate them. This turns on the body's immune system.
- Cover as many of them as possible. (Cover at least 3 of them.)
- The covered ones become red and start to die. When this happens, often all of them will go away.
- Try to keep them covered all the time.
- Remove the tape once per day, usually before bathing. Then replace it after bathing.
- Some children don't like the tape on at school. At the very least, tape it every night.
- Prevent the Spread to Other Areas of Your Child's Body:
- Discourage your child from picking at them.
- Picking it and scratching a new area with the same finger can spread them. A new one can form in 1 to 2 months.
- Chewing or sucking on them can lead to similar bumps on the face.
- If your child is doing this, cover them. You can use a bandage (such as Band-Aid).
- Keep your child's fingernails cut short and wash your child's hands more often.
- What to Expect:
- Without treatment, they go away in 6 to 18 months.
- If covered with duct tape, they may go away in 2 or 3 months.
- If picked at often, they can become infected with bacteria. If this happens, they change into crusty sores (impetigo).
- Return to School:
- Your child doesn't have to miss any child care or school.
- There is a mild risk of spread to others.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Your child continues to pick at them
- New ones develop after 2 weeks of treatment
- They are still present after 12 weeks of treatment
- You think your child needs to be seen
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Last Reviewed: 03/19/2018
Last Revised: 05/07/2017
Copyright 1994-2017 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. All rights reserved.