The spread and treatment of molluscum

Pediatric Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Swanson answers all the questions about the spread and treatment of molluscum (aka water warts).  Currently there is no FDA official treatment for the little bumps that spread so easily in kids, so the internet is full of at-home remedies.  This Q and A article will address those and the common fears.  Does duct tape cure molluscum?  Essential oils?  What other medicines do doctors prescribe?  Can you get molluscum from your child?  Is it a sexually transmitted disease?

What are molluscum (aka water warts)?

Molluscum are these little shiny skin colored bumps that are very common in kids. They’re caused by a virus. That virus is just a skin virus. It doesn’t do anything else to us, but it wreaks havoc on our skin. And one bump can quickly become several bumps. As the virus spreads, the virus that causes molluscum is pretty ubiquitous. It’s pretty all around us. Kids get it from other kids or, most notoriously, they get it in swimming pools. It spreads like crazy in water. So that is the most common source for kids to get molluscum.

Who is more likely to get molluscum?

So pretty much all children will get molluscum. In my opinion, it really is quite prevalent. But kids with the background history of eczema tend to get more molluscum and get it worse. And it tends to be just a tougher or deal for kids who have a background of eczema.

examples of molluscum on different skin colors for discussing the spread and treatment

Molluscum looks like small raised flesh-colored, pearly bumps with an indent in the middle. They can appear anywhere on the body.

But the internet says molluscum is an STD!  Should I be worried?

Molluscum are caused by a virus. That’s so ubiquitous in childhood that pretty much all kids will get it. And sometimes kids will even get it in their underwear area. However, we know that this is just a very common virus in the pediatric population and has nothing to do with being a sexually transmitted disease.

How long does it take molluscum to go away?

So molluscum will always eventually go away by themselves. Eventually the immune system figures out what’s going on and takes care of them, but that can take up to two to three years to happen.

What medications are available now and in the future for molluscum?

It actually has no official FDA-approved treatment at this point in time. Anything that we do to treat molluscum we’re using things, what we call “off label.” So we’re using things that we think will help, but don’t have an official indication to treat molluscum. Common therapies these days are things like beetle juice or candida antigen injections. Sometimes we’ll use a topical cream called imiquimod (Aldara). Some of us will prescribe topical retinoids like Retin-a or Differin, but all of these things we are using off-label. Now we are about to see the official FDA approval of two treatments to treat molluscum. One of them is a version of beetle juice. That’s going to be officially FDA. And the other is a topical product that can contains nitric oxide. We’re very excited for that too. So probably in the next year, we’ll have our first two FDA approved treatments for molluscum.

Does Duct tape work well for the spread and treatment of molluscum?

So some people might read on the internet that the covering molluscum with duct tape can be an effective therapy for the spread and treatment of molluscum. And I think that’s true for some people. And we don’t exactly know why. I think most of us think that just the sticky tape and pulling that off every day, kind of irritates the skin a little bit and attracts the immune system to the problem. So then the immune system comes and checks things out and finds that there are molest there or finds that there are words there and then goes ahead and treats those things. So if people wanna try duct tape, I’m okay with that. Uh, but if it doesn’t work, uh, I can help.

What kind of essential oils might work for reducing spread and treatment of molluscum?

So there are numerous over the counter natural oils that are marketed to treat molluscum. The one I most commonly recommend is called Zymaderm and you can get it on Amazon for $26. Its major ingredient is tea, tree oil, but there are other similar products out there. I think that each of them is okay to try now. Anything with natural oils could be potentially irritating. And if that irritation is too much, then I would definitely stop the product.

What should I do if my child gets molluscum?

So if you find molluscum today on your kiddo first, all first of all, don’t panic. This is something that’s just bound to happen. Pretty much every child will end up with a molluscum or two, and it’s not always a bad situation. Some kids will just have one or two molluscum. They go away all by themselves and they never cause any problems. So just noticing molluscum is not a reason to be overly concerned. If however, the molluscum are spreading or causing itching or pain, then you can definitely pursue treatment to try to speed up that resolution process. And I’d be happy to talk with, with patients to guide them through the options.

Can a child’s molluscum spread to a parent?

So most adults have been exposed to the virus that causes molluscum in some way, shape perform during their life. So it’s uncommon to have an adult get molluscum. However, it can happen sometimes some way an adult has avoided molluscum their whole life or avoided the virus that causes molluscum. And so then as an adult, they pop up with a few, so it can happen, but it’s very uncommon.

How long will the molluscum last?

If you get molluscum and you choose not to treat, which is always okay, they can last up to two to three years. That doesn’t mean they will last that long, but they can last that long.

Can my child go swimming with molluscum?

You can definitely still go swimming with molluscum, even though that’s a common location to pick it up in the first place, um, you can still go swimming and going swimming once you have them is not going to make them worse. A lot of people ask me if they should avoid swimming to avoid spreading it to other kids. And yes, technically it’s a virus and yes, technically it spreads like crazy in swimming pools. However, pretty much all kids are going to get molluscum. And so I don’t believe in quarantining kids from swimming simply because they have them. So I think it is safe to continue to swim. You may want to keep them covered, you know, with a larger bathing suit or a swim shirt, just to avoid questions and curiosities from other people.

Can you get it from a toilet seat?

I think that would be kind of difficult. The timing would have to be just exactly right where someone else with molluscum on their bottom, sat on a toilet. And immediately after that, you sat on the toilet. I think it’d be pretty hard to get it from a toilet seat. So there doesn’t have to be a break in the skin in order to get molluscum, but a break in the skin certainly helps. That’s why kids with eczema tend to get it worse than kids who don’t have eczema because by eczemas nature, they have several breaks in their skin.



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