The No-Fun Waiting Game

So your child has bumps dotting their body. Their pediatrician diagnoses molluscum and tells you the good news: the condition doesn’t threaten your child’s health. The virus causing it will eventually run its course; the bumps will go away, and new bumps will no longer pop up.

But the not-so-great news may follow: your child’s doctor recommends that you wait for the virus to go away on its own. What does this waiting approach mean? There’s no crystal ball. Medically, it’s tricky to tell whether the virus will last 6 months or more than 2 years, thoughthe average timeline is one year. Also, it’s not possible to predict the emergence of signs and symptoms. Will the bumps become itchy and painful? Will the bumps move to your child’s face, or suddenly spread like wildfire? You hang in there, patrolling your child’s hand washing, scratching, and playtime to prevent spread to other parts of their body or to other kids. The wait can feel long. Really long.

So how about some more hopeful news? Your family can consider a more take-charge approach by seeing a dermatologist. This physician specialist has extensive training in skin conditions and can offer an array of treatment options.

“As a pediatric dermatologist, I always mention that treatment is never mandatory for your child’s molluscum,” nor are there FDA-approved treatments specific to this condition. “But there are approaches that can speed up the resolution of molluscum,” says Elizabeth (Lisa) Swanson, M.D., Advanced Dermatology, Aurora, CO. The opportunity to intervene can be better early on “before the virus has multiplied, and the signs of infection have spread,” she says. But you can meet with a dermatologist at any stage of the infection.

Regardless of when you may bring your child to a dermatologist, they may evaluate your child according to various factors including:

  • number of molluscum bumps
  • location of molluscum
  • age
  • presence of eczema

To take a closer look at this breakdown of considerations, here are further details:

1. Number of Molluscum

“There are some options to consider if there are just three molluscum. But if these options aren’t as reasonable and practical when there are 30 molluscum,” says Dr. Swanson. Bear in mind that treatment can “help to prevent molluscum from multiplying. But sometimes the number of molluscum is already large, and intervening will not really have a quick impact on them,” she explains. More than one visit for in-office treatment might be recommended.

2. Location of Molluscum

Are the molluscum bumps gathering in warm and moist areas or appearance-problem areas? These include armpits, neck, face, buttocks, and groin. When the bumps’ location is a struggle or a potential stigma, families may consider discussing treatment options with a dermatologist.  The location of the bumps on the body also determines the selection of the treatment option.  “There are certain treatments we would avoid on the face or genital area,” says Dr. Swanson.

3. Age of Patient

“Age is certainly a big factor in the choice of treatments. A 16-year-old patient might be willing to tolerate some pain with treatment to get rid of their molluscum, but that pain would not be manageable for a 2-year-old,” says Dr. Swanson. A dermatologist has treatments geared for various ages, including options that are less painful but might involve more visits.

4. Presence of Eczema

If your child has a history of eczema, he or she may be more likely to get molluscum—and to get more than the average range of 10 to 20 bumps. Some children can wind up with 100 or more bumps,” says Dr. Swanson.

Plus, a combination of eczema and molluscum involves additional considerations that benefit from a dermatologist’s expertise.

  • Eczema skin sensitivity: this warrants a tailored approach that avoids irritating eczema.  
  • Eczema flare-ups triggered by molluscum: this warrants an approach that minimizes the itch.

Keep in mind that “it never hurts to have an appointment set up with a dermatologist just in case your child continues to struggle with molluscum. The average wait time to see a pediatric dermatologist can be several weeks. So having that appointment set up ahead of time can certainly come in handy!” says Dr. Swanson.

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