2020 will always be known for the impact the COVID-19 virus had on our lives. Molluscum is caused by another type of virus that has no known connection to COVID-19. Still, the molluscum virus is highly contagious and spreads easily to other children. Parents can become alarmed if they notice bumps on their child’s skin, especially if the bumps appear on the face or groin or become inflamed or itchy.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic resulted in a lockdown in spring 2020, many dermatologists had to close their offices and stop seeing their patients in person temporarily. Fortunately, some patients could have “virtual visits” with dermatologists using their computers or smartphones. Many people used “telemedicine” — or “teledermatology,” as it is sometimes called – for the first time.
“During the two months our office was closed, we diagnosed lots of molluscum cases virtually,” says Douglas Kress, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh. Telemedicine with photos or video works well for diagnosing a visual skin condition like molluscum, he adds, but treatment options are limited. Dermatologists must see patients in person for molluscum treatment procedures. “The computer can’t administer tools we use to treat molluscum,” he says.
“When our office opened on June 1st, we saw a spike in molluscum cases because of the pent-up demand for in-office treatment. We expected to see more patients coming in with terrible psoriasis or bleeding moles. But no, we were stunned at how many people couldn’t wait to get to our office to treat their kids’ molluscum,” he says.
Here are three takeaways from the pandemic lockdown to keep in mind, based on Dr. Kress’s observations in his own practice. With social distancing measures still in place, these takeaways can help families make decisions going forward.
- Contact your dermatologist as soon as possible if your child has uncomfortable bumps or a rash surrounding the bumps. If it’s molluscum or a related condition called “molluscum dermatitis,” a delay in treatment of this highly contagious disorder may turn out to be frustrating for you and your child. “Thinking ahead helps you avoid a long wait to see your dermatologist,” says Dr. Kress.
- Teledermatology can be convenient. It’s reassuring to know that dermatologists may be able to diagnose molluscum through a telemedicine consultation. (You can check with your insurance company to make sure this approach will be covered by your plan). Keep in mind that if your child gets a diagnosis of molluscum during a virtual visit, you can request an in-office appointment for treatment as a follow-up. You can do this even if your child has just a few molluscum bumps. “Scheduling a follow-up visit can be helpful in the event your child’s molluscum becomes itchy or spreads, warranting an in-office treatment,” says Dr. Kress. You can cancel the appointment if you determine later that you don’t need it.
- With medical offices putting safety protocols in place, many doctors are offering in-person visits. Depending on where you live, “you can pursue routine healthcare now, including care for molluscum,” says Dr. Kress. You can call your dermatologist or go on the office website to find out the specific COVID-19 safety protocols. “In our office, masks are required for everyone. We carry out cleaning protocols between patients, and we have social distancing requirements in the waiting room and at check-out,” says Dr. Kress. These are standards to look for in a doctor’s office.
Going forward, families dealing with molluscum may avoid frustration by consulting a dermatologist sooner rather than later. You and your dermatologist can discuss whether virtual, in-person, or a combination of visit types would be the best approach for your situation.