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Recommendations to help patients avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum

Photo by Alex Bollo

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has developed a list of tips and recommendations for patients to avoid the spread of molluscum contagiosum. Molluscum contagiosum, the contagious skin condition caused by a virus, most commonly affects children between the ages of one and 10 years.

While molluscum contagiosum is usually harmless, it can multiply and spread to other parts of the body and other people, according to the AAD.

During an infection, which can last several months, some molluscum bumps become red, swollen or crusted. The AAD notes these changes are usually a sign that the body is fighting off the virus.

“Molluscum contagiosum spreads through skin-to-skin contact or by touching or sharing things that have the virus on them, such as clothing and towels,” said Dr. Elaine C. Siegfried in a press release. Dr. Siegfried is a professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Although the condition will eventually clear on its own in people with a healthy immune system, this takes about one year, and people who have molluscum can easily spread the virus to other parts of their body and other people.”

To avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum, Dr. Siegfried recommends the following tips clinicians can share with patients:

  • Maintain good hygiene. Because molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus, it is important for patients to practice good hygiene to stop the disease from spreading. Patients should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching any molluscum bumps. Additionally, pediatric patients with molluscum should avoid sharing a bath with others.

  • Avoid sharing personal items. Patients with molluscum contagiosum should avoid sharing items such as clothing, towels, hairbrushes, and bars of soap since they may all harbour the virus and spread it to others.

  • Leave the bumps alone. Patients should avoid scratching, picking, or touching their lesions. It is recommended that the lesions be covered with a bandage, liquid bandage or clothing.

  • Use caution when participating in sports. Since molluscum contagiosum spreads through skin-to-skin contact, patients should keep the infected area covered when participating in contact sports or using shared gear, such as helmets, mats or balls.

“Although molluscum contagiosum is most common in children, teenagers and adults can get the virus too,” said Dr. Siegfried. “When adults get molluscum, it is most frequently sexually transmitted and seen in the genital area.”

If adults become infected, Dr. Siegfried recommends that patients tell their partners that they have molluscum contagiosum and use barrier protection, such as condoms, to prevent spread. She added that patients should skip shaving the affected area, as shaving can irritate the bumps and spread the virus to other parts of the body.

“While treatment for molluscum contagiosum is not always necessary, it can help clear the virus faster so that it can no longer spread to others or to other parts of your body,” Dr. Siegfried said.

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