Molluscum Contagiosum (Child)

Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin infection. It is caused by a pox virus. The infection causes raised, flesh-colored bumps with central indentations on the skin. The bumps are sometimes itchy, but not painful. They may spread or form lines when scratched. Almost any skin can be affected. Common sites include the face, neck, armpit, arms, hands, and genitals.

Molluscum contagiosum spreads easily from one part of the body to another. It spreads through scratching or other contact. It can also spread from person to person. This often happens through shared clothing, towels, or objects such as toys. It has been known to spread during contact sports.

This rash is not dangerous and treatment may not be needed. But the rash can spread if it is untreated. Because it is caused by a virus, antibiotics don't help. The infection usually goes away on its own within 6 to 18 months. The infection may continue in children with a weak immune system. This may be from diabetes, cancer, or HIV.

If the bumps are bothersome or unsightly, you can have them removed. This may include scraping, freezing, or using a blistering solution or an immune modulating cream.

Home care

Your child's healthcare provider can prescribe a medicine to help the bumps or sores heal. Follow all of the provider’s instructions for giving your child this medicine. 

The following are general care guidelines:

  • Discourage your child from scratching the bumps. Scratching spreads the infection. Use bandages to cover and protect affected skin and help prevent scratching.

  • Wash your hands before and after caring for your child’s rash.

  • Don't let your child share towels, washcloths, or clothing with anyone.

  • Don't give your child baths with other children because the infection can be spread to others.

  • If your child swims in public pools, cover the affected area with a watertight bandage.

  • If your child takes part in contact sports, be sure all affected skin is securely covered with clothing or bandages.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • A bump shows signs of infection. These include warmth, pain, oozing, or redness.

  • Bumps appear on a new area of the body or seem to be spreading rapidly

  • Bumps appear around the eyes or genitals

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell