Every parent expects their child to get sick sometimes. After all, you’d get sick too if you spent the bulk of your days crawling on dirty playground equipment, drinking out of your friends’ cups of juice, licking the pool noodle during swimming lessons, eating pretty much anything you find on the floor and touching (or mouthing) every little thing that grabs your attention. And while little children typically aren’t big fans of sharing, when it comes to spreading bacteria and viruses, they’re extremely generous.
As parents, we’re pretty well equipped when it comes to dealing with common ailments like colds, flu, ear infections, lice, sunburn and chicken pox, but what about the more uncommon ones…like Molluscum Contagiosum? Despite sounding like a spell straight out of Harry Potter, molluscum contagiosum is a highly contagious viral skin infection, more commonly known as water warts.
Despite affecting up to 11% of children aged 16 years and under, most mums are unfamiliar with water warts. A recent survey of over 500 UK mums found that 56% had never heard of the condition and only 39% could correctly identify the symptoms. Whatsmore, only 44% of mums knew that water warts are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and even less knew that it could be transmitted through touching things such as toys, towels and bedding.
So here’s what you need to know:
What are water warts?
Water warts (molluscum contagiosum) are a highly contagious viral skin infection affecting up to 11% of children under the age of 16.
What do water warts look like?
Usually, the only symptom of water warts is several small, raised, firm bumps (papules) on the skin. These are not painful, but can be itchy, red, swollen or slightly sore. Water warts also look somewhat like small raised blisters with dome-like papules of between 2 and 6mm in diameter, which have a shiny or lustrous surface and are often grouped together. The spots often have a depressed or dimpled centre.
Who is affected by water warts?
According to the recent survery conducted by Glenmark, a quarter of mums underestimate how many children water warts affects and 26% say they have no idea how many children it affects. Although anyone, at any age, can get water warts, it is most common in children under the age of 16 and eight out of ten cases affect children under the age of 5.
What areas of the body does water warts affect?
The papules usually appear in clusters around the face, trunk, limbs and armpits in children.
How can you catch water warts?
As the name molluscum contagiosum suggests, the condition is highly contagious and is caught when children come into direct contact with someone who is infected, or when they handle something which someone with the condition has used.
If someone in the family is affected, it’s best to keep their towels, washcloths, toys, clothing and bedding separate to avoiding spreading it amongst others in the household.
How long do water warts last?
Of the mums surveyed, 51% assumed that water warts would clear up within three months. 1 in 10 thought that water warts would be gone in under two weeks. Both of which are incorrect.
Once the virus has been passed on, it can take several weeks for the spots to emerge and once they appear, it can actually take up to 18 months for the body to clear them.
How can you treat water warts?
While water warts are likely to clear up on their own, many people decide to treat them sooner. Treatments for water warts are available directly from pharmacies or you can seek medical advice from your GP.