Most of us will have heard about, or could even have already identified signs of Molluscum on our children (or Molluscum Contagiosum as it is formally known). This can be a worrying time for mums if you don’t know what it is or how best to treat it. British mum and GP, Dr Negin Afshar explains more about Molluscum and how you might even be able to avoid getting it in the first place!
What is it?
Molluscum is a viral skin condition caused by a virus of the pox family. It is characterised by firm, round, translucent, pearly white or flesh coloured, dome shaped papules. It can occur anywhere on the body and often appears in crops. In children, lesions generally occur on the face, trunk of the body, hands and feet.
How did my child get it?
Spread is usually from direct skin-to-skin contact. If you speak to other British mums, you’ll hear it is a relatively common childhood eruption, especially in children who swim and bathe together. It has an incubation period of 3-12 weeks, so the first signs are revealed quite some time after the original contact was made and it is more common in atopic children, ie. those with asthma, eczema or other hypersensitivities.
Will it spread?
It can spread to other parts of the body on the same individual. Steroid cream and chapped, damp skin can encourage spread and are best avoided.
Will siblings or friends get it?
As it is viral, it can be spread from person to person, so it is really important to use separate towels and other basic hygiene measures – especially after swimming. Just to make it more complicated, a child could be infected and contagious, even without any visible skin lesions.
What are the possible risks or complications
Secondary infection or inflammation around the lesion may occur if the lesions are scratched or irritated. Occasionally this infection can require antibiotic cream or orally, or if it’s more severe, the inflammation may require steroid cream. If you think there may be a secondary complication please see a doctor.
Do I need to treat it?
Molluscum is usually benign and self-limiting, which means that it will resolve spontaneously without requiring any specific intervention. It often lasts 6-9 months, but it can persist for longer than this and up to 2 years. If you’re concerned you should check that the diagnosis in correct, other possibilities include warts and sebaceous cysts. Treatment is warranted in the cases of secondary infection or inflammation.
What are the treatment options?
Generally, they are best left well alone to clear up by themselves, but as mums we always like to try and speed things along. If you feel like there are an extremely large number, or that they are particularly large and widespread, you could consider these:
Cryotherapy – application of liquid nitrogen to the lesion (this is painful and can leave a permanent discolouration)
Expression of the contents of the pearly core (needling)
Curettage – scooping with a special ‘spoon’ (our treatment of choice)
These have all been tried with varying benefits and results. Treatment failure & recurrence is common, so keep an eye out for reappearance of the lesions.
Written by Dr Negin Hakim
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