Are you a parent who suspects their child got molluscum on their face from wearing a mask? You have good company! It must seem like too much of a coincidence that molluscum bumps suddenly appear near or under the mask. Could the mask have caused the bumps by rubbing against the skin?
Or are you one of the parents who has been alarmed to see your darling come home from school wearing an unfamiliar mask? You know your child loves to share. How can you stop a friendly preschooler from trading germy masks with a friend?
Dr. Maria Hicks, a Tampa Bay area board certified dermatologist, has heard questions about face masks and molluscum from several of her patients’ parents. “Molluscum is caused by a virus,” says Dr. Hicks. “It infects the skin and can live on surfaces.” Yes. It might live on masks, but Dr. Hicks hasn’t seen a rise in molluscum cases lately. Still, Dr. Hicks recommends washing masks after one day of use. “Keeping masks clean in general will help reduce the spread of all kinds of germs, not just the molluscum virus.”
It might be more likely for children to be exposed to the molluscum virus through skin-to-skin contact with an infected child or wet surfaces, like swimming pool decks. “Sometimes you can’t figure out how your child contracted molluscum,” says Dr. Hicks. The incubation period—that is, the time between contracting the virus and the appearance of the bumps—is anywhere from about 1 week to 6 months. It’s hard to trace every activity and contact over such a long time.
While many things, like mask-sharing among children, may be out of your control, there are a few things that you can do. “If you think your child may have molluscum, tell them not to touch it. Use bandages or clothing to cover bumps, if possible. Around your home, don’t let your kids share baths or towels,” says Dr. Hicks. “Fortunately, adults are less likely than children to get molluscum, unless they have a weakened immune system. Many adults have developed antibodies to the virus.” Wash your hands frequently, though. “If you touch molluscum and don’t wash your hands, of course, you can spread it to other areas on your child and to your other children,” she adds.
Another thing that is in your control is the decision to seek treatment for your child. Molluscum takes an average of 13 months to go away on its own. Dermatologists can provide treatment to shorten the disease’s duration and, consequently, lower the chances of it spreading to other areas of the body or to other children.