Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Molluscum contagiosum

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Molluscum contagiosum is a skin condition that is common in children but can occur at any age.
  • It is caused by a virus that gives you pimple-like spots with a dimple in the middle.
  • It can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, or when you bathe or share a towel with someone who has the infection.
  • Molluscum contagiosum is usually benign, and your body will usually clear the infection in a few months without treatment, but you can also get the spots treated by a doctor.

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a common, generally harmless (benign), skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV). The virus causes small, raised spots that can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. It is more common in children, but it can affect people of any age.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

When the spots appear, they look like white pimples. Over time, they become round, pink or pearl-coloured lumps with a hard middle and often a dip in the centre. The spots are usually very small, about 3 to 6mm, but they can be as large as 30mm.

Molluscum, is painless but can be itchy, especially if you also have eczema.

Picture of molluscum contagiosum.
Molluscum contagiosum spots first look like white pimples, then turn pink and round or pearl-coloured lumps with a hard middle and often a dip in the centre.

When should I see my doctor?

It is important to see your doctor to get a diagnosis of any skin condition. Molluscum contagiosum usually doesn’t need treatment. Your doctor might suggest treatment if they are worried about the virus spreading, or to reduce the risk of scarring.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is molluscum contagiosum treated?

Molluscum contagiosum usually heals in about 6 to 9 months without any treatment. Some people, for example if you have problems with your immune system, can have spots for years.

Treatment may involve:

  • freezing the spots off with liquid nitrogen
  • squeezing them gently and pricking with a needle
  • surgically scraping them off
  • using a cream or lotion
  • using wart paint

The spots usually heal without leaving a scar, but some treatments and scratching can leave marks.

If the person has a skin condition such as eczema, it’s best to treat the condition before treating molluscum contagiosum.

Can molluscum contagiosum be prevented?

Molluscum contagiosum can be spread by touching the spots, although it may be months before spots appear after infection. Molluscum can also be spread to different parts of the body or to other people in bath or pool water, on bath toys, towels, face cloths or clothing.

You can help stop molluscum spreading by:

  • showering rather than bathing
  • washing and drying children's bath toys after use
  • not sharing towels, face washers or clothing
  • drying the affected area last after showering
  • washing hands thoroughly after touching the spots

People with molluscum can attend school and work because clothing usually covers the affected areas. If necessary, cover any exposed spots with a skin tape, dressing, or adhesive strip.

What are the complications of molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum can also be sexually transmitted. For adults with molluscum on the genital area, you can reduce the chance of spread to sexual partners by using condoms and dental dams.

If you or your recent sexual partners become infected with molluscum, it’s a good idea to get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

Resources and support

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a fairly common skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus.

Read more on WA Health website

Molluscum contagiosum - Better Health Channel

Molluscum contagiosum can be mistaken for genital warts or pimples, check with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral skin infection which occurs worldwide but is more common in warm climates. This condition frequently affects children.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Molluscum contagiosum in children | Raising Children Network

Molluscum contagiosum is a common childhood skin infection. It causes small red or flesh-coloured spots. It isn’t serious but can be hard to get rid of.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Lumps in the scrotum - Symptoms & Treatment | Healthy Male

Testicular or scrotal lumps can be a sign of problems with your testicles. This may be caused by injury but can also be indicative of an underlying medical problem.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Common childhood rashes

Childhood rashes are common and many disappear without treatment. Learn about symptoms and treatment of childhood rashes, such as eczema, ringworm and impetigo.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Ways infectious diseases spread | SA Health

How infectious diseases spread including via air, personal contact, soiled objects, skin, mucous membranes, saliva, urine, blood, sexual contact, food and water

Read more on SA Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.