PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF MOLLUSCUM
By Kate Kovalszki, MD
Ask your friends if they're familiar with a skin condition known as molluscum contagiosum and you'll probably get a lot of confused looks. But ask if they've ever noticed small pink or flesh-colored bumps on their child's skin and they're likely to respond with a lot of knowing nods.
Molluscum contagiosum is the medical term for a common virus that occurs most often in children and teens, and people with weakened immune systems. Although not harmful to one's health, molluscum can be a nuisance because it can be itchy and uncomfortable, and spread easily on one's body and to other people. It can also become infected.
The good news about molluscum is that many people have immunity to it so if they're exposed, they don't develop any growths. Moreover, molluscum may go away on its own, although the process can take months or even years.
- Keep the affected area clean and covered with clothing or a bandage so others do not touch the bumps and become infected.
- Before participating in sports in which your body will come into contact with another person's body (eg. wrestling) or shared equipment (swimming pools, towels, mats), cover all growths with clothing or a watertight bandage.
- Do not share towels, clothing or other personal items.
- Do not shave or have electrolysis on areas with bumps.
- If you have bumps in the genital area, avoid sexual activities until you see a health care provider.
The Board certified dermatologists at South Shore Dermatology Physicians (SSDP) offer several treatment options for people with molluscum. The simplest one is no treatment at all. If you have just a few bumps and they're not spreading, we may recommend simply waiting for them to go away. To prevent the virus from spreading to other body parts or other people, we may also recommend keeping the rash covered with clothing or a watertight bandage during the day and exposing the area at night when there is no or little risk to other.
Active treatments may include freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), scraping the bumps (curettage), or using topical therapies such as cantharidin, trichloroacetic acid, or podophyllin cream. A new treatment option is the use of imiquimod, an immunotherapy cream which helps to strengthen the skin's immune system to fight the virus.
If you think you or your child may have molluscum contagiosum, schedule an appointment with a Board certified dermatologist at SSDP to confirm the diagnosis and discuss your specific treatment options.
Kate Kovalszki, MD, is a Board certified dermatologist at South Shore Dermatology Physicians.