When to Treat Molluscum Contagiosa and Warts in Children

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Molluscum Contagiosum, sometimes referred to as "molluscum contagiosa," is a common viral skin condition in children between the ages or two and 12. The virus causes benign warts that typically pose no medical threat to your child and that can resolve on their own over time. However, if you're a parent, first make sure that your child's warts are caused by molluscum contagiosum by scheduling an appointment with a pediatrician. You and your child's doctor can determine when and if wart treatment is appropriate or necessary.

Molluscum Contagiosum: How Did Your Child Get It?

A common question parents may ponder is how their child got molluscum contagiosum warts (mollusca). Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a type of poxvirus that is spread by skin-to-skin contact. However, your child may also pick up molluscum contagiosum by touching contaminated objects, such as toys, doorknobs, water faucets, and common surface areas. According to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, molluscum contagiosum warts usually present as firm, flesh-colored bumps with a waxy appearance. The warts may have a small indentation in the center. These warts usually affect one part of the skin—in children, this is typically the hands and fingers, although they can spread to other parts of the body.

To Treat or Not to Treat?

Without treatment, mollusca go away between six and 18 months. They might be itchy, but they're usually not painful-—to prevent a child from itching, you can apply an adhesive bandage over the warts (this also prevents them from being spread to playmates). A pediatrician may not even recommend treating the warts, if they are few in number or don't appear to be spreading.

However, there are times when treating mollusca may be necessary. Children may pick at the warts, which causes them to spread or become painful and inflamed. Additionally, some children suck on their warts, and this can result in additional warts popping out on the face and around the mouth. In rare cases, warts that are picked at enough may eventually turn into highly infected sores.

For some parents, mollusca may also be a cosmetic concern. While most children only have around five to ten mollusca, the warts can multiply and spread to other body parts; when they appear on the face, they can become unsightly.

Mollusca Treatments: What to Expect

Depending on the number of the warts, your child's pediatrician may offer you several options. Some of the in-office procedures to remove the warts may include using a topical anesthetic and scraping or freezing off the warts or removing them using laser therapy.

There are also prescription topical applications your child's pediatrician may use to remove wart papules, such as imiquimod. If mollusca has caused an itchy condition such as dermatitis or eczema around the warts, a hydrocortisone cream or prescription topical steroid may be advised for application only in the surrounding area, not the wart itself.

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