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My Son Had Molluscum Contagiosum: Diagnosis and Treatment

Karen lives in a suburb of Columbus, OH, and is a stay-at-home mom with five kids.

Son's leg with molluscum contagiosum prior to any treatment

Son's leg with molluscum contagiosum prior to any treatment

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 four to six 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.

Blister Beetle Juice Wart Treatment

The doctor took a vial of beetle juice and began applying a small amount to each molluscum 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.

Molluscum lesions six hours after beetle juice treatment

Molluscum lesions six hours after beetle juice 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.

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Day one after treatment

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 that he wanted to put shorts back on. He seemed to be doing OK.

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) exist, there are now red areas, but nothing is raised.

We will return to the dermatologist in 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.

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!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on October 18, 2012:

Wow, Brainy, I just thought it was the beetle juice. Glad that my son lucked out. I am glad that I had it treated even if he still has them today to reduce them spreading. My only red head had them. I wonder if skin type plays a role. ie. sensitive skin and reacts well to the beetle juice. I hope your daughter's goes away soon! Good luck.

Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on October 18, 2012:

No kidding! My daughter, after having two treatments with the beetle juice and then surgical removal, has ended up with more! Two more on her back near the site of the others, and now a new large on her chest! I don't know what to do -- we're all out of treatments, since. Don't think my daughter will let the dermatologist cut off any molluscum that she can see. Argh!

Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on October 18, 2012:

Thanks, Melovy, for taking the time to read and comment. My son just had his one month check up yesterday after having the beetle juice applied and they are all gone! I was pleased that we didn't have to let it runs it course and risk spreading to any of my other children. I was thrilled that he only had one blister. The dermatologist said he was surprised at how effective and quick the treatment was for my son. I guess that is not completely typical.

Yvonne Spence from UK on October 18, 2012:

My kids had this when they were little and because their cousins had had it several years before I knew what it was, so wasn't unduly worried. In neither my kids nor my sister's kids cases did doctors suggest anything other than letting it run its course. I don't know for sure, but I think that this is common practice in the UK: doctors just said it was harmless and would go away by itself. I had no idea there were any treatments available, so found your article interesting. One of my daughters has one scar from it on her knee, the other has none. It's odd, but unlike your son I don't remember my kids finding it itchy.

Your article was interesting and will be useful for others who might not know about the condition.

Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on September 19, 2012:

By writing this article, I am finding that everyone's kids have had this beast! My son didn't show me at first and I am glad that I noticed. That is the last thing I need is five little kids full of this stuff! :) Glad you got rid of it. Hopes our passes quickly (and only on this child), too! Thanks for reading, Laura.

LauraGSpeaks from Raleigh, NC on September 19, 2012:

Two years ago my son had this and my daughter ended up getting a mild case. It is HIGHLY contagious. I never heard of "beetle juice." We were give a different ointment that was a Potassium Hydroxide solution and told to apply daily with a toothpick until the spots turned pink. That treatment worked for my daughter who had a very mild case on her leg and we likely caught hers early. (My son had it all over the area under his arm and armpit and didn't tell us for a month). We ended up going back to the dermatologist and using liquid nitrogen. That helped tremendously but he still had some that hadn't responded so we bought the over-the-counter liquid nitrogen stuff used for warts and treated it at home several times before we finally got rid of all of it. Whew!

Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on September 19, 2012:

Marissa, thanks for reading. I hope this never finds its way to your house! Best of luck!

Marissa from United States on September 19, 2012:

I too have never heard of this, but I'm glad I read it! It does seem like kids get all sorts of skin infections and viruses now.

This was very well written and informative! I'll be bookmarking it for future reference.

Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on September 19, 2012:

I hope my son only has the 2 rounds. We will found on in a couple of weeks when we go back for the monthly check up. I am finding that this skin condition is very common amongst my friends' children. I have had so many friends comment that their child had or has this. Thanks for reading, Brainy!

Brainy Bunny from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on September 18, 2012:

My daughter also suffered from this this past summer, but we needed three trips to the dermatologist, the beetle juice, AND several still needed to be sliced off. It ended up being a very expensive couple of weeks. Where she had the last few cut off, the area is still a little red, and I'm nervous the doctor may not have gotten it all. We'll have to wait and see!

Karen Lackey (author) from Ohio on September 18, 2012:

Jelly gator, I thought the same thing about Hogwarts! I am glad that we got the treatment started. I have too many little kids for something like this to spread! Thanks for reading!

jellygator from USA on September 18, 2012:

I've never heard of this. "Molluscum Contagiosum" sounds like something out of Hogwarts School!

I've noticed that a LOT of people seem to be getting unusual skin infections this year.

I'm glad your son is doing better. I can only imagine how my teen stepdaughter would respond if she found herself with this!

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