Viral skin bumps that commonly occur in childhood

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DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My 7-year-old son recently developed a small pink lump on his arm. We soon began to notice more in the back and under the arms. Her pediatrician said they were called “mollusks” and we shouldn’t do anything about it. But I worry about them spreading to their little sister. What are these points and should I worry?

ANSWER: Molluscum contagiosum, often just called “molluscum”, is a common occurrence in childhood. Like warts, mollusks are caused by a non-worrying virus that usually takes the body to recognize and get rid of. Although anyone can develop this disease, the mollusk occurs most often in younger children of elementary age.

The mollusk has pink or skin spots. They can be as small as a small pearl and can have a slight bleeding in the middle, like a navel. That is why they are called “umbilicus”. People often report redness, itching, or pain in the spots, especially if irritated due to rubbing or friction.

The mollusk is not dangerous and should disappear on its own, but it can take time. In some patients, it may take a year or more. The mollusk spreads easily to areas of friction, such as the armpits, groin, or other folds of skin, and can spread to other people. Although your pediatrician is right not to treat you, treatment can remove the mollusk more quickly.

Many options for treating mollusk are published, but only a few methods are safe and effective. One of the most common is to apply a thin layer of a mild retinoid-type drug, such as adapalene (Differin). This medicine used to be a prescription, but it is now offered without a prescription and can be found in the aisle of the acne product. A certain irritation may develop in the form of red, scaly skin, which is fine. This is a signal that your child’s body is responding to treatment. However, if too much irritation occurs, you may want to space the applications apart or every third night.

A dermatologist can offer you , including prescription versions of retinoid-type drugs and other such creams. To and teens, scratching or freezing the bumps may be an option. In , the preferred treatment of the mollusk is to apply a solution made from a secretion of the blister beetle, which is called cantharidin. This clear, painless and safe solution is applied to the bumps on a dermatologist’s office and then washed at home a few hours later. The solution creates small blisters of water on the blows to help get rid of them.

In patients with pre-existing conditions, such as eczema or other rashes, the mollusk can spread more quickly. Patients may need special treatment to help with any outbreaks of eczema before the mollusk can be treated.

Although not as common, adults can also get Molluscum contagiosum. However, in adults, the mollusk is considered a potentially sexually transmitted condition and can be associated with immunodeficiency, such as HIV infection. Therefore, I always recommend that adults who develop spots consult their primary care physician or dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis and discuss the next steps.

Once someone has been diagnosed with mollusks, I recommend taking care to avoid sharing clothes and bedding, as there is a possibility of spreading the infection to other people through contact with these items. It also helps minimize scratches on the affected areas, as it can cause the virus to spread and multiply the blows. While it can be a challenge to know if anyone has mollusks, be aware when sharing bathroom or toilet spaces. Some people think that bathing or swimming in a small space with someone infected could transfer the virus to other people, so be careful.

In short, mollusks are benign and benign strokes of childhood, but they can be annoying. If your child develops this type of growth, especially if it spreads quickly, affecting others , or if it becomes itchy and painful, you should talk to your primary care provider or consult a dermatologist.


Missing treatment guidelines for seropositive molluscum contagiosum


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