What Is Molluscum Contagiosum and How to Treat It
What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum Contagiosum: any of various skin diseases marked by the formation of soft rounded cutaneous lesions.
My son was itching the back of his knee. He has eczema so I told him to stop but didn’t think much of it. When I noticed him itching later the same day, I was curious about how bad his eczema was. It turned out not to be eczema—it looked like warts. I told him to stop scratching while I tried to figure out what was going on with the back of his knee. I suddenly remembered that a neighbor’s son had something like this on his arms. I asked her the name of the condition so I could do some research on how to get rid of it and determine if it was contagious. I showed her my son’s leg, and she smiled and said, “Oh, he has exactly what my son had. He has molluscum.”
Our pediatrician confirmed my neighbor’s diagnosis, and we were off to a dermatologist. The official diagnosis was molluscum contagiosum—the latter part of the name means exactly what you might expect. It is contagious. My son’s itching had resulted in it spreading up his leg towards his groin. Since we have a houseful of kids, I wanted it resolved as quickly as possible. I asked the doctor, “What are our treatment options?”
How to Treat Molluscum Contagiosum
The dermatologist explained that there are four possible ways to treat molluscum contagiosum:
- Wait it out: By waiting, my son could risk scarring, and there were no guarantees on how long it would take for the lesions to vanish. Waiting out the virus could take up to a year or longer for the lesions to go away.
- Removal of lesions: Also known as curettage, an option would be to remove each lesion. This could be painful and may result in a scar.
- Liquid nitrogen: Another painful option in which the lesions are frozen, blisters emerge, and a pink spot results.
- Blister beetle juice: Also known as cantharidin, beetle juice is applied to each lesion. This chemical is not painful and the lesions remain covered for 4 to 6 hours. Blisters will result which peel the lesion away.
I had quite a bit to digest. Molluscum is more contagious amongst children than adults, and I have four other children at home. We tried waiting it out only to find that the ten lesions were now more like fifty. The doctor brought in the liquid nitrogen container as well as the beetle juice. Based on what I had read and my neighbor’s son’s experience, we decided to go with the beetle juice option.
Dermatologist Applying Blister Beetle JuiceClick thumbnail to view full-size
Blister Beetle Juice Wart Treatment
The doctor took a vial of beetle juice and began applying a small amount to each mulluscom lesion. The assistant then quickly covered up each area with a band aid or a large rectangular, sterile pad. When it was all said it done, my son ended up with about thirty circle band-aids and two large sterile pads.
When the dermatologist was done with my son, I asked, “I understand it will blister, but how do I know if we have any problems with the treatment?” He assured me that he has never seen any adverse reactions other than the expected blistering, but the only possible reaction could be infection due to open blisters. I told him that we would keep an eye out for that.
Six Hours After Treatment
After the dermatologist, we went home prior to returning my son to school. My son had worn shorts to school and he would be returning with long pants.
When he got off the bus, we were at the four-hour window after the beetle juice was applied. The assistant at the dermatologist office told me that if my son could handle six hours before the beetle juice was rinsed off, that would be better. My son said that the lesions were not bothering him at this point. We agreed on a time that we would remove all his bandages and wash them thoroughly with soap and water. In the meantime, he completed his homework and played outside with his siblings.
When the agreed upon time arrived, we removed all bandages and were surprised at the lack of blistering. We put him in the shower, thoroughly rinsing his legs to remove the beetle juice. Because there weren't any breaking blisters yet, we did not have to put any dressings on his legs.
My son was free to go back outside and play.
Day One After Treatment
My son reminded me quickly, “If I wake up with blisters, don’t forget, Vaseline and a band-aid.” My son was paying attention. The morning after the beetle juice was applied, he had about one blister and multiple areas that were redder. I applied some Vaseline but did not apply any band-aids. I sent him to school again with pants. I was hoping that they did not blister more at school or cause him discomfort.
When he got off the bus from school, I said, "How was your day?" and then quickly moved onto, "Let's look at your legs". We scurried inside to find no additional blisters and the one he had was no longer there. He said that his legs did not bother him at all and wanted to put shorts back on. He seemed to be doing OK.
Molluscum Lesions Five Days After TreatmentClick thumbnail to view full-size
One Week After Treatment
I kept a close eye on my sons legs for these horrible blisters that were supposed to result. It has been one week and he only had the one blister.
Was the treatment working if he was not having a strong reaction?
This is where taking pictures are a real benefit. I was able to see exactly how my son's legs looked at the doctor's office and at six hours, one day, two days, etc. I was visually able to assess his progress. By reviewing the pictures, his legs are looking amazing. Where large raised lesions (or warts) exists, there are now red areas, but nothing is raised.
We will return to the dermatologist one month to professionally assess his progress. The dermatologist assured me that at the one month mark, many lesions should be gone, but others could appear. Another round of treatment is likely.
Has your son/daughter had Molluscum?
How did you treat the Molluscum?
Progress Being Made
I have seen children with molluscum contagiosum on multiple body parts, including their faces. While it is contagious, the dermatologist assured me that this will not keep a child out of school.
If you think your child has molluscum contagiosum, I recommend treating it sooner rather than later. My son's molluscum spread from a few places behind his knee to almost fifty lesions in about a month. I was pleased that it was isolated to his legs, but most likely, it would have continued to spread.
I am pleased with the blister beetle juice treatment so far. My son's legs have noticeably improved and his blistering and discomfort were minimal. We will return in a month to continue treatment if necessary.
My son told me this morning, "They are getting better! I love beetle juice!"
Best of luck if your child has molluscum contagiosum. I hope you have a positive experience with your treatments as well!