Diagnosing and managing the virus as it spreads among siblings

One summer evening, my daughter, Maya, showed me a tiny bump on her shoulder blade. She said “Mommy, it’s itchy.” I examined it, but dismissed it because it looked like a mosquito bite. A few days later, she shoved it in my face again and said, “Mom, it’s really itchy and feels weird.” It was a clear-white, red-rimmed bump. Something about it didn’t seem right, so I promised to bring it up during her next checkup. 

After seeing the bump, her pediatrician immediately informed me that Maya had contracted molluscum contagiosum. I had never heard of it, but it sounded terrifying. He explained that it was a common virus among young children. It was contagious and could be uncomfortable. He told me, too, it would run its course and eventually go away on its own. He reassured that I could minimize the symptoms by throwing on some topical cream or covering it with an adhesive bandage, but that was the extent of it. He gave me the peace of mind that it wasn’t fatal — but as a parent, I was bummed that I couldn’t make it go away. I monitored it and made a conscious effort to keep the virus from spreading. I tried my best to keep her away from my other girls. A challenging feat when you have sisters who constantly want to play with each other. I laundered her clothes separately and reinforced the importance of washing her hands.

All was going well, until Maya became self-conscious. It was the summer, so she wanted to wear tank tops and go swimming. She was very concerned that other kids would make fun of her or that she would give the virus to someone else. Luckily, it went away after a few months. That was the end of it…or so I thought. 

Shortly after, I happened to notice that my 4-year-old, McKenna, was sprouting bumps. As soon as I saw the first, I knew what I was dealing with. However, I didn’t expect it to be so extreme. She suffered far worse than her sister. She had bumps on her legs, torso, arms and groin. I was worried because this was very different than what I’d previously experienced. 

Back to the pediatrician we went. He gave me the same speech but felt pity for my baby just as I did. Because her case was far worse than her sisters, he mentioned a few treatment options — freezing with liquid nitrogen and scraping with a sharp blade—and warned me that they would be painful for McKenna. I decided to forgo those suggestions because she’d suffered enough. If she were older and self-conscious, I might have done the treatments.

We called them her “bumpies,” but they itched like crazy and grew to be very large. It was painful to watch! She’d scratch them, they’d burst, bleed a little, then scab over. It wasn’t the prettiest sight, but at least I knew that once the scab appeared, we’d have one less bumpie to worry about. McKenna was a lot younger, so she didn’t care much about what others thought. I followed the same routine — kept her covered, washed her clothes separately, and constantly reminded her to wash her hands. Eventually, the number of bumps declined from twenty to one, and we made it through the virus. Over time, all of the scabs healed and cleared up. Looking at her now, you couldn’t even tell she’d been affected by the disease. 

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Verrica Pharmaceuticals Inc. would like to thank the mothers of children with molluscum who have shared their family stories for this website. This individual was compensated for her article. If you would like to share your experience with molluscum, please e-mail info@verrica.com.

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