American Academy of Pediatrics

Molluscum Contagiosum

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What is molluscum contagiosum?

A skin disease caused by a virus, somewhat similar to warts

What are the signs or symptoms?

Small, flesh-colored bumps on the skin, often with a tiny, hard, indented, seedlike center

What are the incubation and contagious periods?

  • Incubation period: Usually between 2 and 7 weeks but may be as long as 6 months

  • Contagious period: Unknown

How is it spread?

  • Person-to-person through close contact

  • Through sharing of inanimate objects, such as dress-up clothing, or direct contact

How do you control it?

  • Perform hand hygiene using good hand-hygiene technique after touching the bumps.

  • Do not share clothing or other skin contact articles.

  • Do not scratch the bumps because that may cause further spread of the virus to another site (autoinoculation).

  • Usually goes away on its own in 6 to 12 months as the person develops antibodies to the virus; however, may last for years.

  • In some cases, treatments may be used to destroy the bumps. However, the treatments may involve painful scraping, freezing, burning, or chemically damaging the bumps. These treatments may cause scars.

  • Cover the lesions where possible with clothing or a watertight bandage when close contact or water activities involve skin where the bumps are present.

  • Although molluscum contagiosum bumps represent a viral infection, they are very mildly contagious and most often are spread to other areas of the affected child’s body rather than to other children.

What are the roles of the teacher/caregiver and the family?

  • Perform hand hygiene using good hand-hygiene technique after touching the bumps.

  • Do not let children pick at their bumps because this may cause an opening in the skin, which promotes bacterial infection or further spread of the viral infection.

Exclude from group setting?



This infection can be itchy and spread by children who scratch the bumps and then touch other surfaces and people. This type of itch can be nearly eliminated by applying a cold compress. Instead of telling children not to scratch, keep a small plastic bag of ice in the freezer with a paper towel to wrap around the ice. Give the wrapped ice bag to children to apply to any area that feels itchy. Do not use an ice bag on a sleeping or an unattended child. Prolonged contact of ice with skin can lead to cold injury.

Listing of resources does not imply an endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is not responsible for the content of external resources. Information was current at the time of publication.

The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Quick Reference Sheet from Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide.

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