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Tips to avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum

The common and highly contagious skin condition mostly affects children ages 1 to 10

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Dec. 8, 2020) — Molluscum contagiosum is a common and highly contagious skin condition caused by a virus. According to dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, the condition mostly affects children — adults are often immune to the infection — and causes pearly, flesh-colored bumps to appear on the skin. The bumps can appear anywhere, and while they are usually harmless, they often multiply and spread to other parts of the body and to other people. During the infection, which can last several months, some molluscum bumps become red, swollen or crusted, which can worry parents. However, these changes are usually a sign that the body is fighting off the virus.

“Molluscum contagiosum spreads through skin-to-skin contact or by touching or sharing things that have the virus on them, such as clothing and towels,” says board-certified dermatologist Elaine C. Siegfried, MD, FAAD, a professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “Although the condition will eventually clear on its own in people with a healthy immune system, this takes about one year, and people who have molluscum can easily spread the virus to other parts of their body and to other people.”

To avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum, Dr. Siegfried recommends the following tips:

  • Maintain good hygiene. Since molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus, it’s important to practice good hygiene to help stop the disease from spreading. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching any molluscum bumps on yourself or your child. In addition, children with molluscum should avoid sharing a bath with others.

  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as clothing, towels, hair brushes, and bars of soap, since they can all harbor the virus and spread it to others.

  • Leave the bumps alone. Do your best to avoid scratching, picking or touching the bumps. To help, cover them with a bandage, liquid band-aid or clothing.

  • Use caution when participating in sports. Since molluscum contagiosum spreads through skin-to-skin contact, keep the infected area covered when participating in contact sports, such as basketball or football, or using shared gear, such as helmets, mats or balls. Do not participate in wrestling unless all bumps can be covered with tight bandages.

“Although molluscum contagiosum is most common in children, teenagers, and adults can get the virus too,” says Dr. Siegfried. “When adults get molluscum, it is most frequently sexually transmitted and seen in the genital area.”

If infected, Dr. Siegfried recommends that patients tell their partners that they have molluscum contagiosum and use barrier protection, such as condoms, to prevent spread. She also advises that patients skip shaving the affected area, as shaving can irritate the bumps and spread the virus to other parts of the body.

“While treatment for molluscum contagiosum isn’t always necessary, it can help clear the virus faster so that it can no longer spread to others or to other parts of your body,” says Dr. Siegfried. “Your pediatrician or dermatologist can discuss the best treatment for you.”

These tips are demonstrated in “Tips to avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Nicole Dobkin, (847) 240-1746, ndobkin@aad.org

More information
Molluscum contagiosum: Signs and symptoms
Molluscum contagiosum: Causes
Molluscum contagiosum: Diagnosis and treatment
Molluscum contagiosum: Tips for managing

About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.