Molluscum Contagiosm is a common skin condition which mostly affects infants and children up to the age of 10. Tiffany Brown shares everything you need to know about the bumpy and sometimes itchy affliction also known as ‘water warts.’
WHAT IS IT?
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a skin infection resulting from the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV). The condition causes clusters of painless bumps to appear on the upper layers of the skin. The length of time the condition lasts varies to a great degree, but can last between two months and up to four years. The bumps may be white, pink, or brown (skin-coloured), and are raised with a waxy look and a dimple or “dent” in the centre. Bumps are usually between 2 to 5mm in diameter. Tummies, arms, legs, neck, genital area, and face are the most common areas affected. The palms and soles of the feet are not affected. While mostly harmless and painless, MCV bumps can become itchy, sore, or swollen. Itchiness is more likely if the sufferer already experiences eczema. Medical diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical appearance of the condition. Some of the complications of the condition include secondary bacterial infection caused by scratching (known as impetigo), conjunctivitis in the case of infected eyelids, or secondary eczema (an immunological reaction).
HOW DO YOU GET IT?
By definition a poxvirus, MCV is spread by direct skin contact, through surface contact, or by sharing infected items, such as towels, clothing, or sports equipment. The affected person can also quite easily spread it to other parts of their own body. Symptoms generally appear between three and seven weeks after infection. The condition mainly affects infants and young children up to the age of 10, and is more prevalent in warmer climates and overcrowded environments. Children are more likely to transmit MCV in wet conditions, such as when bathing or swimming together. Due to deficiencies in the skin barrier, children who suffer from atopic dermatitis may find MCV is more numerous and lasts longer for them than for others. A weaker immune system will also mean the condition can be more severe, and if children also suffer eczema, the bumps are more likely to cause irritation and itching.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The body usually clears the infection within six to nine months, and most people find the bumps go away within about a year, without leaving scars. There is no cure for MCV, as the virus has not yet been isolated, so no single particular treatment will necessarily work to relieve symptoms or hasten recovery. Medical treatments like antiseptics (hydrogen peroxide cream), podophyllotoxin cream, wart paints containing salicylic acid, or cantharidine solution may provide relief. In a person with a healthy immune system, the bumps usually fade away of their own accord without treatment.
HOW TO REDUCE THE SPREAD OF INFECTION
• Ensure kids are keeping their hands clean, washing them well and for a sufficient duration with warm water and soap.
• Remind children to avoid scratching, picking, or touching the skin where bumps are visible.
• Make sure the bumps are kept clean with regular washing and personal hygiene.
• Cover all visible lesions with clothing or watertight bandages, and dispose of any used bandages immediately.
• Until the infection has cleared up, avoid sharing towels or clothing with other children, and try to limit sharing of sports gear or equipment.
Natural treatments for MCV
Home or DIY remedies for MCV can be used to attempt to neutralise and eliminate the virus. There are reports of some success with natural products known to have antibacterial, antiseptic, and antiviral qualities. These include neem, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, coconut oil, oregano oil, garlic, and manuka oil.