What are those tiny flesh-colored bumps on your skin?

What are those tiny flesh-colored bumps on your skin?

Children are out of school for the summer, which means summer camps, swimming pools, sports and amusement parks are bustling. While often fun, these activities increase children’s exposure to sharing clothes or equipment, such as swimming kickboards, wrestling mats or baseball gear. As a result, the skin infection Molluscum contagiosum can easily be transmitted between kids.

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection, resulting in small bumps that appear in the shape of a “dome,” according to JAMA Dermatology. These pencil eraser-sized bumps have a dimple in the middle, often contain a white center and appear by themselves or in clumps. Molluscum contagiosum occurs all over the skin, but usually does not appear on the soles of your hands or feet. Some frequent places include the face, neck, chest or armpits.

How do you become infected with Molluscum contagiosum? The root of this skin infection is poxvirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The poxvirus is one of many viruses that can cause a rash or skin lesions in humans. Molluscum is very common in children and is almost always harmless,” says Dr. David Milligan, pediatrician from Advocate Children’s Medical Group.

The American Academy of Dermatology explains children are more prone to Molluscum contagiosum due to having increased physical contact with other kids. The condition is contagious, and one of the most vulnerable ways to be exposed to the virus is through sharing items, such as toys, towels, clothes or gym mats that already are contaminated with the infection. They note another way the virus transfers to other body parts is when you scratch the bumps and then touch another area of your body.

The timeframe for this condition varies from person to person; for some it may last months, while others can have bumps for a year. However, it is important to realize the infection can easily re-occur if you are in contact with the virus again.

Dr. Milligan explains Molluscum contagiosum usually goes away in 6-12 months, but it may last longer. Children can seek treatment if the lesions create a cosmetic concern or if they continue to spread.

“Treatment can include cryotherapy (“freezing lesions”) and curettage, though these can cause scarring. There are also topical products that can be used to treat Molluscum,” he says

To prevent Molluscum contagiosum from spreading, Dr. Milligan suggests avoiding shaving in areas with the infection and to avoid scratching or picking lesions. He also recommends keeping lesions covered and avoid sharing any personal items.

One more valuable reminder? Wash your hands.

“Good hand washing is always a great way to prevent spread of any infection,” says Dr. Milligan.

Does your child have symptoms of Molluscum contagiosum? Click here to find a dermatologist near you.

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About the Author

Kelsey Andeway
Kelsey Andeway

Kelsey Andeway, health e-news contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a senior at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing, baking, and taking long walks with her Chocolate Lab.