Molluscum Contagiosum in Childhood: Treat or Wait?

September 11, 2015

Molluscum Contagiosum in Childhood: Treat or Wait?

  1. Mary Wu Chang, MD

Nearly half of MC infections resolved within 12 months whether lesions were treated or not.

  1. Mary Wu Chang, MD

Molluscum contagiosum (MC), a self-limited, cutaneous infection caused by a pox virus, affects up to 11% of children younger than 16 years. Although MC rarely causes serious complications, it is contagious, it can exacerbate eczema and lead to social stigma, and it may take months or years to resolve.

To provide epidemiologic data on MC in children and to determine the effect of treatment, investigators conducted a retrospective chart review and parental phone survey regarding 170 children aged 15 years or younger (median age, 5 years) who received a diagnosis of MC at an outpatient dermatology clinic. Of these patients, 77% were white; 47% had a history of atopic dermatitis (AD); 2% had a history of immunodeficiency; 35% had fewer than 10 lesions, and 60% had 10 to 49 lesions; and 27% received treatment. Treatments included topical therapies (tretinoin, imiquimod, cidofovir, cimetidine, and cantharidin) and destructive therapies (curettage, cautery, and cryotherapy).

Nearly half of MC infections resolved within 12 months, and approximately 70% resolved within 18 months in both treated and untreated patients; 19% of patients had MC for 24 months or longer. Children with a history of AD had significantly more MC lesions than children without such history, but time to resolution was similar in all children, regardless of AD history, age, sex, race, number of lesions, and extent of infection.


MC is a common infection of childhood and can be a source of great frustration for parents. These results suggest that time to resolution is probably not affected by treatment or other epidemiologic factors. To avoid dyspigmentation, scarring, and other adverse effects, therapy should be selected according to the age and skin type of the child and the location of the MC. Coexisting eczema should also be treated. Benign neglect is still a reasonable option for many children.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Mary Wu Chang, MD at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board Pierre Fabre; Valeant Speaker’s bureau Pierre Fabre


Reader Comments (2)

Kimmel, Sanford Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Retired

As a family physician and general pediatrician, I can state that few parents are willing to wait the 12 to 18 months for the molluscum contagiosum to clear on its own, especially if new lesions are continually forming. Although I agree that there is no definitive treatment for this condition as each has its share of adverse effects, most parents insist that some treatment be given . Thus the clinician may prescribe that treatment that best suits the situation.

claudio fabian racana Physician, Pediatrics/Adolescent Medicine, swiss medical center

Did you find laringeal respiratory complication ?Wich is your treatement?

Your Comment

(will not be published)

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Do you have any conflict of interest to disclose?
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

* Required

Reader comments are intended to encourage lively discussion of clinical topics with your peers in the medical community. We ask that you keep your remarks to a reasonable length, and we reserve the right to withhold publication of remarks that do not meet this standard.

PRIVACY: We will not use your email address, submitted for a comment, for any other purpose nor sell, rent, or share your e-mail address with any third parties. Please see our Privacy Policy.