Baby Hints & Tips

Molluscum contagiosum (water warts)

There has been a few recent outbreaks of molluscum contagiosum, also known as water warts,  so we thought it was timely to provide some information on what it is, how it is caught and how to manage it.

Molluscum contagiosum

*Image supplied by a Baby Hints and Tips community member

What is molluscum contagiosum.

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a virus that occurs commonly in children and in people with low immunity.  It causes small raised lesions on the skin.

How is molluscum contagiosum spread?

MC is only transmitted from human to human.  It is spread by skin to skin contact.  It is also spread by sponges, baths and swimming pools use.  After contact with the virus it may take between 1 week and 6 months to develop (usually 2-6 weeks).

What does molluscum contagiosum look like?

Contagiosum Molluscum lesions * Image supplied by a Baby Hints and Tips community member

Dome shaped firm papules, or skin coloured growths, occur on the skin.  They are 2 to 5 mm in diameter and have a shiny surface with a dent in the middle.
They are sometimes, not always itchy and may become inflamed.

It can occur anywhere on the body, except the palms and soles.  The most common areas affected are the trunk, armpits, below the elbow, behind the knee and groin.

Other effects

Molluscum dermatitis is a eczema patch or plaque around the MC lesions and can commonly occur.

Treatment of molluscum contagiosum

In a person with a healthy immune system the lesions will usually heal with no intervention within 2 months, generally with no scarring.  And the infection will usually clear within 6 to 12 months.

Treatment may be considered because of the look of the lesions or to prevent spread to other areas of the body, siblings and playmates.  Treatment should be discussed with your doctor.  Options include freezing the growths, a doctor scraping the growths and some medication that can be applied.

A more mild treatment option suggested by Royal Children’s hospital is “tape stripping”.  Cover the spots for a 2 days with duct tape or Elastoplast and then pull off.  Repeat a few times if needed to remove the “central core” of the lesion.  Bandaids will not work as the adhesive part of the tape needs to cover the spots.

Preventing spread

It is not necessary to keep children home from school or daycare, however lesions likely to come in contact with other should be covered with clothing or a watertight bandage.  Avoid bathing together and do not allow children to share towels or sponges.

Molluscum contagiosum in pregnancy is not common and not well documented.  If lesions were in the genital region then there is a potential risk these could transit to the newborn. It is suggested that the lack of this condition in children under the age of 1 may mean there is some protection given from the mother to the unborn child.

Make sure you:

  • Avoid baths.  Have a shower as the molloscum virus may spread in the bath to other parts of the body.
  • Dry children who have molluscum carefully.  Use the towel on the effected areas last to avoid spreading the virus.
  • DO NOT share baths, towels, face washers, cloths with a child who has molloscum contagiosum
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the molloscum lesions.

Community Tips for treating molluscum contagiosum

Wheat grass spray cleared up molluscum contagiosum completely for my daughter.  She wouldn’t let me put anything on them, but tolerated the spray.  Its just cold.


Uptodate. Patient education: Molluscum contagiosum (Beyond the Basics)

Royal Children’s Hospital

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