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Molluscum contagiosum is a stubborn rash

Skin rash

Skin rash Credit: Dreamstime

I hear parents asking about molluscum. What is it?

The formal name is molluscum contagiosum. It sounds like a “Harry Potter” spell, and if it were it would be one used on an enemy. It’s a raised rash caused by a virus in the pox family. The difference between molluscum and chickenpox, for instance, is that mollusum isn’t accompanied by fever or other systemic symptoms. “It is literally just a skin rash,” says Dr. Roya Samuels, a pediatrician and attending physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

“It almost looks like pimples that have a central dimple,” Samuels says. Kids can have dozens, even hundreds, on different parts of the body. “It’s primarily an aesthetic problem. But it can itch as well,” Samuels says.

The stubborn rash is usually self-resolving but can take months or even years to disappear. It’s very contagious.

“It’s very common in young children,” Samuels says. Adults can get it as well but are less likely to due to their more practiced immune systems.

This virus spreads by wet surfaces and in water — for instance if kids are bathing together or swimming in a pool not properly chlorinated. It can spread through damp towels or skin to lesion contact. It spreads on the body when children scratch the lesions and then touch another part of their own body.

“I generally will tell parents to let it resolve on its own,” Samuels says. There’s some literature that says apple cider vinegar applied to the lesions can prevent spread and help them disappear, Royes says. But if the rash is in a sensitive region such as the face or genitals, she recommends seeing a dermatologist. Treatments can include, for instance, freezing the legions off, similar to freezing off a wart.

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