Skip to Content

Molluscum Contagiosum


What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that can affect children and adults.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a pox virus. It is contagious, which means it can be easily spread to others. It can spread when a person touches the skin of an infected person. It can also be spread on items that an infected person has used, such as clothes or washcloths. Children may pass it to each other through saliva or swimming pools. Adults may get the virus from having sex with an infected person. Children with atopic dermatitis (another skin condition) are more likely to get molluscum contagiosum. This disease is also more common among people who have trouble fighting infections, such as those with AIDS or a weak immune system.

What are the signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The virus may not cause symptoms for weeks to months after it has entered your body. You may see small, raised bumps on your skin. The bumps are firm, smooth, and white or the same color as your skin. Bumps caused by molluscum contagiosum are often thought to be warts. They usually do not hurt or itch. Adults may have these bumps on their inner legs, abdomen, and genitals. Children may have them on their face and body.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your signs and symptoms. He may know you have molluscum contagiosum by looking at your skin. He may take a skin scraping from the infected area to examine it more closely.

How is molluscum contagiosum treated?

Molluscum contagiosum may go away on its own. Your caregiver may recommend that you apply a cream medicine to the bumps to help them go away. Your caregiver will tell you how long to use this cream. Your caregiver may want to remove the bumps surgically or by freezing them (cryosurgery). A medicine called liquid nitrogen may be used to freeze the bumps. He may also remove the bumps using laser therapy or by scraping them off.

What are the risks of molluscum contagiosum?

Cryosurgery may cause redness, pain, and blistering of your skin. Scraping and laser therapy may cause pain and scarring. Your skin may change color in the areas that were treated. With or without treatment, you may develop another infection if you scratch the bumps.

What should I do to prevent the spread of molluscum contagiosum?

  • Wash your hands: Always wash your and your child's hands after caring for or touching the infected area. Also wash your hands before you touch food, your eyes, or other people. If no water is available, use germ-killing hand lotion or gel to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand lotion or gel works best. Germ-killing hand cleaners may not kill all the germs on your hands, so wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible after using it.
  • Do not share personal items: Children should not bathe together or share towels if one of them has this skin infection. Do not share or reuse items that have come in contact with molluscum contagiosum bumps or sores. Examples are clothing, bedding, and washcloths. These items may be used again after they have been washed with hot water and soap.
  • Cover the bumps: Keep skin areas that have bumps covered with clothing. Do not scratch the bumps. This may spread the infection to other parts of your body or to other people.
  • Avoid close contact with others: Avoid contact sports, such as wrestling or football. Do not have sex until the bumps are all gone.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Dermatology
    P.O. Box 4014
    Schaumburg , IL 60168
    Phone: 1- 847 - 330-0230
    Phone: 1- 866 - 503-7546
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have swelling, redness, pain, tenderness, or warmth in the infected areas of your skin.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.