“Molluscum contagiosum” does sound like something Harry Potter might say just before he casts a spell on you. But molluscum contagiosum (or “molluscum” for short) is in no way exotic, in fact it is one of the most common reasons for a child to see a dermatologist. We see it daily in our practice. But it can be a source of confusion, frustration, and even fear for the child and their parents. Actually, children are not really bothered much by their molluscum, but it can drive parents crazy.
Pediatricians sometimes tell parents that molluscum are “childhood warts”, and that is not a bad way to describe them. Like warts they are caused by a virus (but a different virus). Like warts they are contagious and they are transmitted through direct contact. The lesions also look a little bit like warts, but warts are rough, while molluscum are smooth dome-shaped little bumps, often with a dell in the center.
Molluscum contagiosum is extremely contagious (hence the name) and can spread like wild-fire to other young children or to other parts of a child’s body. But it is mainly a disease of children under the age of 10. Parents and older siblings (and dermatologists) who have close contact with the infected child never seem to “catch” the molluscum. The more mature immune system of an adult prevents this.
There is an exception to this age limit for molluscum. In adults, we only see molluscum in the genital area where it is a sexually transmitted disease (much like genital warts).
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