Molluscum Contagiosum: What is that?!

What is molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosium is a common wart virus caused by a poxvirus. Though molluscum can resemble warts, the virus that causes them is different. It occurs most in children, aged 2-12 years.

Signs and Symptoms

Molluscum causes 1 or more tiny (from pin head to ¼ inch) skin colored waxy bumps on the skin. They can develop anywhere, and if scratched or rubbed by clothing, more can develop in the same area. The firm bumps can be indented or umbilicated and may have a white center. Thankfully, molluscum are not painful, but can occasionally be itchy.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis is easy for your provider to make through the history and visualization of the skin.


Most of the time, we recommend that molluscum be left alone.  With time (months) they resolve on their own with no treatment.  Sometimes, ignoring molluscum is not an option.  In cases where they are spreading quickly (because they are in an area where there is skin on skin contact, like under the arm), are painful, your child continues to pick at them, or they are causing a cosmetic problem, treatment may be indicated.  There are various treatment methods and your provider can help determine what might be best for your child.  One of the easiest methods to try at home is the duct tape method.  It is described here in Dr. Barton Schmitt’s Clear Triage handout.

  • “Covering molluscum with duct tape can irritate them. This turns on the body’s immune system.
  • Cover as many of the molluscum as possible. (Cover at least 3 of them.)
  • The covered molluscum become red and start to die. When this happens, often ALL molluscum will go away.
  • Try to keep the molluscum 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.”


If your child already has molluscum, to prevent more from developing, advise them to avoid scratching. Keeping nails cut short can also help. Also avoid rubbing the affected area with a washcloth or towel and then touching this to other skin. To prevent passing molluscum to others, avoid bathing with or sharing a hot tub with others and avoid sharing towels and washcloths. If the child is in contact sports, it will be helpful to cover molluscum if located in an area where there could be skin to skin contact. It takes 4-8 weeks after contact for molluscum to develop.

Other useful information

There is no need to stay out of school or activities due to molluscum. If the child is in contact sports, it will be helpful to cover molluscum if in an area where there could be skin to skin contact.


ClearTriage.  Copyright 2000-2019 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.   Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP


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