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Molluscum contagiosum: Tips for managing

Reduce risk of spreading molluscum

When one child has molluscum bumps, you can reduce the risk of another child getting molluscum by: 1) bathing the children separately, and 2) using different towels to dry each child.

mother bathing children

While molluscum contagiosum rarely causes pain and will eventually clear on its own if you have a healthy immune system, this skin infection is contagious.

People who have molluscum bumps can spread the virus to:

  • Other parts of their body (medical term “autoinoculation”)

  • Other people

Until the molluscum bumps go away, molluscum is contagious. Taking some precautions can help prevent spreading the virus. Here’s what dermatologists recommend.

Hydrocortisone can help itch

If the bumps itch, ask your dermatologist if you can apply hydrocortisone cream or ointment to reduce the itch.

mother putting lotion on child's cheek

How to avoid spreading molluscum to other areas of the body

  1. Try to avoid scratching and picking at the bumps. Scratching and picking can spread the virus to other parts of your body. If your skin breaks open, you can infect your skin. This can be painful and requires treatment.

  2. Treat the bumps only if your dermatologist or other health care provider recommends doing so. If you try to remove the bumps on your own or squeeze out the fluid inside, you risk spreading the virus to other parts of your body.

  3. Keep the bumps clean and wash your hands after touching the molluscum. Washing your hands helps to remove the virus from your skin so that you don’t spread the virus to other areas.

  4. Moisturize dry skin. Dry skin tends to itch, and scratching can spread the molluscum to other areas of your body.

  5. Use 2 towels when drying off. When you or your child has molluscum, it helps to use 2 clean towels to dry off. You’ll use one towel to dry the skin with molluscum. Use the other clean towel to dry the skin without molluscum. This approach helps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to other parts of the body.

  6. Skip shaving skin with molluscum bumps. Shaving can spread molluscum to other areas of your body. If you must shave the skin with molluscum, use different razors. You’d shave the skin with molluscum with one razor. The other razor you’d use to shave the skin without molluscum.

  7. Postpone electrolysis while you have molluscum bumps on your skin. Electrolysis can spread the molluscum from one area to another.

How to avoid spreading molluscum to others

Tips to avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common and highly contagious skin condition caused by a virus and presents with flesh-colored bumps on the skin. The bumps can appear anywhere, and while they are usually harmless, they often spread to other parts of the body and are easily spread to others.

To avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum, follow these tips from board-certified dermatologists.

  1. Cover the bumps with clothing, a bandage, or medical tape during school or work. This helps prevent spreading the infection to other people. When you won’t be around others and before going to bed, remove bandages and medical tape.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly after you touch your own molluscum bumps (or your child’s). You want to use soap and water, washing for as long as it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.
  3. Before going into a swimming pool, hot tub, or sauna, take the following precautions: You can easily infect other people if you go into a pool, hot tub, or sauna while you have molluscum bumps. To reduce this risk, dermatologists recommend the following:

    • Cover the bumps with waterproof bandages or a bathing suit.

    • Don’t share your towels, googles, or bathing suit with anyone.

    • Take extra care when using pool equipment, such as kickboards and pool noodles, making sure that the bumps are always covered.

  4. Cover all molluscum bumps before participating in any other sport. High school athletes get molluscum contagiosum during sports, such as wrestling, basketball, and football. To prevent spreading molluscum to others:

    • Cover all molluscum bumps with clothing or waterproof bandages.

    • Avoid sharing gear, such as pads, helmets, and baseball gloves. If it’s likely that a waterproof bandage will come off during a sport and expose someone else to the virus, such as during a wrestling match, stop the sport until the bumps clear.

  5. Bathe a child who has molluscum separately, using different washcloths, bath toys, and towels for each child. Bathing children together is a common way to spread molluscum from one child to another.
  6. Let a child with molluscum sleep alone. It’s easy for the molluscum virus to spread when children sleep together.
  7. Make sure children with molluscum have their own personal items, such as towels, washcloths, bedding, and clothes. This helps prevent spreading the virus from one child to another.
  8. Stop sharing personal items. People can get molluscum from skin-to-skin contact and when they touch infected items. When the person who has molluscum stops sharing clothes, razors, towels, washcloths, and other personal items, this reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others.
  9. If molluscum bumps appear in the genital area, stop sexual activity and see a board-certified dermatologist or your healthcare provider. In adults, molluscum is often spread through sexual contact — but not always. Treatment is usually recommended for anyone who has molluscum bumps in the genital area (on or near the penis, vulva, vagina, or anus). Your healthcare provider can tell you when you can have sexual activity again.

Dermatologists give their patients these tips and others every day to help them feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Getty Images

Bhatia AC. “Molluscum contagiosum.” Medscape. Last accessed March 25, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Molluscum contagiosum: Risk factors.” Page last reviewed May 2015. Page last accessed March 22, 2019.