How would I know if I had molluscum contagiosum?

Also mentioned in the Disclaimer, only a healthcare provider can diagnose a molluscum infection or lesion. If you have any unusual skin irritation, rash, bump(s), or blister(s) that do not disappear in a few days, contact a health care provider.

If you have molluscum, you will see small white, pink, or flesh-colored raised bumps or growths with a pit or dimple in the center. The bumps are usually smooth and firm. They can be as small as the head of a pin and as large as a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimeters in diameter). The growths are usually painless but may become itchy, sore and red and/or swollen. They may occur anywhere on the body including the face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, and genital area, alone or in groups. The bumps are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet.

What should I do if I think I have molluscum contagiosum?

If you have any unusual skin irritation, rash, bumps, or blisters that do not disappear in a few days, you should see a health care provider.  As mentioned in the Disclaimer, only a health care professional can diagnose molluscum. He or she will discuss treatment options and how to care for the affected skin.

How do people become infected with the molluscum virus?

Touching affected skin of another person is how the virus that causes molluscum is spread from person to person. Touching towels, clothing, toys, kick boards, swim floats with the virus on the surface may spread the virus. Once someone has the virus, the bumps can spread to other parts of their body through touching or scratching a bump and then touching another part of the body. Molluscum can be spread by sexual contact from one person to another.

Although the virus might be spread by sharing swimming pools, baths, saunas, or other wet and warm environments, this has not been proven. Researchers who have investigated this idea think it is more likely the virus is spread by sharing towels and other items around a pool or sauna than through water.

What do I need to know about swimming pools and molluscum?

Some investigations report that spread of molluscum contagiosum is increased in swimming pools. However, it has not been proved how or under what circumstances swimming pools might increase spread of the virus. Activities related to swimming might be the cause. For example, the virus might spread from one person to another if they share a towel or toys. More research is needed to understand if and for how long the molluscum virus can live in swimming pool water and if such water can infect swimmers.

Open sores and breaks in the skin can become infected by many different germs. Therefore, people with open sores or breaks from any cause should not go into swimming pools.

If a person has molluscum bumps, the following recommendations should be followed when swimming:

    * Cover all visible bumps with watertight bandages

    * Dispose of all used bandages at home

    * Do not share towels, kick boards or other equipment, or toys

Can my child go to day care or school if he or she has molluscum?

There should be no reason to keep a child with molluscum infection home from day care or school.

Growths not covered by clothing should be covered with a watertight bandage. Change the bandage daily or when obviously soiled.

If a child with bumps in the underwear/diaper area needs assistance going to the bathroom or needs diaper changes, then growths in this area should be bandaged too if possible.

Covering the bumps will protect other children and adults from getting molluscum and will also keep the child from touching and scratching the bumps, which could spread the bumps to other parts of his/her body or cause secondary (bacterial) infections.

Is molluscum contagiosum a sexually transmitted disease?

Molluscum contagiosum can be spread by any contact between two people—this includes sexual contact. Many, but not all, cases of molluscum in adults are caused by sexual contact.

Treatment for molluscum is usually recommended if the growths are in the genital area (on or near the penis, vulva, vagina, or anus). If bumps are found in the genital area, it is a good idea to discuss with a health care provider the possibility that you might have another disease that is spread by sexual contact.