Molluscum contagiosum (also called molluscum) is a harmless skin infection caused by a virus. In this handout, you will learn about molluscum and how it can spread. You will also learn how it can be treated and when to call the doctor.

What is Molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosum (also called molluscum) is a harmless skin infection that causes small, smooth, dome-shaped bumps anywhere on the body. The bumps often have a dimple in the middle. They can be itchy, but they do not hurt. The bumps are usually skin-colored, but they can get red and swollen if they are irritated or scratched.

How Common is Molluscum?

Molluscum is one of the most common skin infections during childhood. It is also common in people who have weakened immune systems (the system in your body that fights germs and diseases).

How Do You Get Molluscum?

Molluscum spreads through skin-to-skin contact. You can also get it by sharing personal care items, like towels or bath sponges.

How Can I Prevent Molluscum From Spreading?

  • Do not pick or scratch the bumps. The liquid inside the bumps has molluscum virus inside it.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Keep your child’s skin clean and dry. When possible, keep the bumps covered with clothing or a bandage.
  • Do not share towels, personal care items or clothing.

How is Molluscum Treated?

Molluscum will usually go away on their own within a few months to a year. If your child has several bumps or a bump that is bothersome, the doctor might recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Cantharidin. This is a liquid that a doctor puts on your child’s skin and is then washed off 2-6 hours later. It forms a blister around the bump. This treatment is not for bumps on the face or genitals.
  • Freezing (also called cryotherapy). A doctor applies a liquid to the bump that freezes it off the skin. Freezing can be uncomfortable for children. A single treatment might work, but sometimes your child might need more than one treatment.
  • Removal. A doctor can numb your child’s skin and remove the bump with a curette (a small scraping tool). This removes the bump, but it can also leave a small scar.
  • Prescription creams. If nothing else works, a dermatologist (skin doctor) might recommend a different cream.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if the bumps are changing or growing quickly or if your child has many bumps.