The Most Common Rash You Never Knew About

By Dr. Diane Arnaout at the Cook Children’s Willow Park practice.

Let’s learn something about … molluscum contagiosum

Alright, I’m going to fill you in on a secret. Information that will save you and your child pain, money, time, and anxiety.

I’m going to teach you about a rash that we see weekly in our office at Willow Park – often many times a day.

It freaks parents out, looks weird, and (always surprising to me)….none of the parents I speak with daily have ever heard of it.

Let’s learn about – molluscum contagiosum!

Ugh, molluscum. People stress so much about these little guys. And honestly – they’re usually no big deal and are totally harmless.

Molluscum contagiosum is the name of a rash that looks like fleshy little bumps. They’re caused by a virus and they can be found anywhere on the body.

They’re round, shiny, vary in size, and look like a cuter, cleaner version of warts. They can be white, pink, or flesh-colored. They often have a little “pit” or dot in the middle of them. They also sometimes have cheesy white stuff in them – this isn’t pus. Try not to pop them – this can lead to infection and scarring.

They spread from person to person very easily. They are passed by skin-to-skin touching, sharing towels or clothes, or using wrestling or gymnastic mats. They are also a common STD. I find that water is a common transmission source – baths, pools, hot tubs.

In my experience, they typically last 6 months to 2 years. The CDC mentions they can last as long as 4 years, but I’ve never seen that.

I always tell folks, if they can, to just leave them alone and let the body get rid of them. There is less scarring that way. Molluscum usually look a little inflamed right before they go away, because the body is finally paying attention to the virus and fighting them off.

Like I mentioned before – molluscum are usually harmless. They can, however, cause kids and parents to worry about their appearance, get irritated by clothing, and can get infected by scratching.

There are different ways to go about getting rid of them. Treatment is designed to irritate the spots. This is to encourage the body’s immune system to recognize the virus and destroy the infected cells.

Just like with warts, we can freeze them in the office, or apply a blistering compound (“beetle juice”) to hopefully cause enough irritation to make them go away. Sometimes if they’re really bad, I’ll send kids to the dermatologist where they can inject yeast antigen into the lesions to make the body pay attention and get rid of them! Isn’t that crazy cool? This works sometimes for warts as well.

Other ways to approach getting rid of them involve creams we can prescribe. There are even oral medications that sometimes help (although I haven’t had the best of luck with these). You can also try a compound called Zymaderm. I’ve had some patients have luck with tea tree oil. And I’m a big fan of apple cider vinegar for both warts and these guys.

Bottom line is – they’re pretty benign, they typically are just annoying, and I promise you they will go away eventually. If you’re really worried about it, come on in and we will walk you through some treatment options.


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