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Common skin infections in children: Molluscum contagiosum and viral warts

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 01 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:0504142
  1. Michael J Sladden, specialist registrar1,
  2. Graham A Johnston, consultant1
  1. 1Department of Dermatology, Leicester Royal Infirmary, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, LE1 5WW

In the first a two part series about children's skin infections, Michael J Sladden and Graham A Johnston give an evidence based approach to the diagnosis and treatment of viral infections

Most children will have a skin infection at some time. Skin infections are a common reason for consultation, both in primary care and in dermatology practice.123 We review two common viral skin infections in children and describe their epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment, focusing on treatments with best evidence.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common, benign, self limiting viral infection of the skin. It generally affects children and is caused by a human specific poxvirus. Infection is rare in children less than 1 year of age and typically occurs in the 2-5 year age group.4 Although the prevalence of molluscum contagiosum is not known, one of six Dutch children have visited their doctor for the condition.5


Fig 1. Typical multiple dome shaped pearly or flesh coloured papules of molluscum contagiosum, with a central depression (umbilication)

Infection follows autoinoculation or contact with affected people.6 The incubation period is from two weeks to six months. The condition is more common in young children and in children who swim, bathe together, and who are immunosuppressed. Little evidence supports the view that lesions (mollusca) are more common in children with atopic dermatitis.

Mollusca present as multiple dome shaped pearly or flesh coloured papules with a central depression (umbilication), which usually appear on the trunk and flexural areas …

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