Children are one of the higher risk groups when it comes to contracting the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV). In the US, slightly less than 5% of children are diagnosed with the virus, though the numbers vary from region to region, and many more children may carry the virus without exhibiting symptoms. Some evidence for this theory comes from an Australian study that found nearly 23% percent of its subjects tested positive for the MCV antibodies in their blood serum (the plasma of the blood with the fibrinogens, a type of protein, removed), while only 35 of the 357 subjects had been diagnosed with molluscum contagiosum, meaning that the virus can be present in the body while not presenting noticeable papules (raised skin bumps). The virus is more common in children with atopic eczema. Children likely have not had the opportunity to build up immunity as most adults seem to do. In children, the virus is highly unlikely to be sexually transmitted, but if the majority of papules are present in the genital region, this may be a sign of sexual abuse and this small possibility should be discussed with a medical professional.
Outbreaks are common in schools. Although the papules are benign and do not necessarily require treatment for health-related reasons, parents are often concerned by the long duration of the lesions (skin abnormalities), especially since some children have been made to stay home from school until the papules disappear for fear of transmission. In fact, as long as any lesions not covered by clothes are bandaged and precautions are taken to prevent spread and proper hygiene is practiced, there is little risk of transmission and children should not stay home from school. If a child needs his or her diaper changed or assistance using the washroom, even lesions in the underwear area should be bandaged. To prevent spread, make sure children do not scratch or otherwise damage the papules. This can make it easier for the virus to spread itself, as it can infect other parts of the skin if it is moved from one spot to another. For this reason, antipruritics (which prevent itching) and bandages can be helpful. Remind children to wash their hands regularly, especially after touching their papules, and not to share personal items that may have had contact with their skin. You may wish to inform your child's teacher(s) or daycare staff about molluscum contagiosum so that they understand the condition is not dangerous and learn how to take reasonable measures to prevent its spread.
Outside of school, infected children should not share personal items, such as soap, hair brushes, clothes, or towels; share bathwater; share water toys; engage in contact sports (unless all lesions are covered); or use swimming pools.
Some doctors recommend not interfering with children's papules because most treatments are painful and come with a risk of scarring. Imiquimod is sometimes used for treating the lesions in children, since it is not usually painful and rarely causes scarring. Cimetidine, an oral medication, is sometimes also prescribed for very small children.