A few months ago, I noticed a small bump on BusyBee’s face just above his lip. Initially, it looked like a pimple or small blister but it just didn’t go away. The “ah ha” moment came when it became more clear that there was a small indent or dimple in the middle. This was a Molluscum contagiosum lesion!
What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
These are small bumps 1-5 mm in size and are caused by a virus in the poxvirus family. They occur mostly in children aged 1-10 years, as adults and older children are typically already exposed and immune. They can show up anywhere on the body and are firm and flesh/white/pink color. Molluscum bumps may come alone or in groups and have the signature umbilicated (dimpled) appearance.
As the name suggests, Molluscum Contagiosum are contagious. They can spread by person to person contact or through objects such as toys and towels. The virus lives in the skin so it does not spread through saliva or sneezing. Children with atopic dermatitis or immune suppression are at increased risk for more severe cases. Because lesions persist for so long, the best way to prevent spread is good hand washing. Keeping lesions on the hands covered may also help prevent spread to others.
Treatment for Molluscum is typically watchful waiting. Lesions will go away on their own and typically resolve within 6-12 months but can persist up to 4 years! (Fingers crossed for the 6 months timeline for the bump on BusyBee’s face!) For more severe cases, lesions can be treated with cryotherapy, laser therapy or curettage.
Topical treatments such as Cantharidin, salicylic acid, tretinoin and imiquimod can also be used. These topical treatments goal is to irritate the skin around the Molluscum as a way to “alert” the body to the virus and start attacking it. Unfortunately, Molluscum, being a poxvirus, can scar with or without treatment but luckily they typically do not!