Children’s health: water warts

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 1 Mar 2022

What exactly are water warts, and what can you do if you suspect that your child has them? This article will address common questions about water warts.

What are water warts?

Molluscum contagiosum, also known as water warts, is a common viral skin infection that causes round, painless bumps that may appear on any part of the body. These bumps may occur as a single or group of lesions, but are generally harmless. However, complications can arise if your child scratches or picks at the bumps.

What are the symptoms of water warts?

Signs and symptoms of water warts may only appear after six months of initial contact with the virus. The main symptom of water warts is the appearance of painless bumps, which are: 

  • Firm and dome-shaped with a slight indentation in the middle 
  • Very small – typically smaller than 6 millimetres in diameter 
  • Filled at the core with waxy material 
  • May itch and become inflamed 
  • May appear anywhere on the face, neck, torso, abdomen, arms, legs and armpits in children

Who can get water warts?

Water warts commonly occur among children between the ages of one to ten. Though uncommon, it can also affect adults.

While water warts can occur in anyone, certain factors increase the risks of infection, including: 

  • Living in tropical climates
  • Compromised immune systems
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Participating in contact sports like football or wrestling

How do water warts spread in children?

Water warts can be spread through direct contact or an object contaminated with the virus, such as toys, towels and clothing. Scratching or rubbing the bumps can also cause the virus to spread to the surrounding skin.

How do I prevent the spread of water warts?

Prevention is always better than cure. You can prevent the spread of the virus with the following precautions: 

  • Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently. 
  • Refrain from sharing personal items like towels, clothing, hairbrushes and sporting gear.

If your child has water warts, here’s what you can do to contain the spread: 

  • Ensure that your child does not scratch or rub the infected areas. 
  • Ensure that the bumps are covered with clothing when around others. 
  • If your child is going swimming, cover the infected areas with a water-resistant bandage. 
  • Ensure that infected areas are well moisturised.

Should I bring my child to the doctor for water warts, and what can a doctor do?

Generally, it is recommended to see a doctor for skin lesions that don’t clear within a few days. Getting a diagnosis will help rule out other causes for the bumps, such as chickenpox, warts and other common skin issues in the tropics.

While water warts go away on their own within 6 to 12 months in most cases, some can take up to three years to resolve. Your doctor may recommend treatment if: 

  • Your child has widespread infection on their face or neck 
  • Your child has an existing skin condition like eczema 
  • You are concerned about your child spreading the virus to their siblings 
  • Your child has a compromised immune system.

What are the treatment options for water warts?

Treatment options for water warts include:

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing each bump with liquid nitrogen. Don’t worry – we can numb the area first.
  • Curettage: Piercing the lesion and scraping it off the skin with a tool. Again – the area will be numbed by a cream so there is little to no pain. 
  • Topical therapy: Topical creams containing chemicals or acids are applied to the bumps to induce the top layers of the skin to peel off.

Larger areas of infection may require additional treatment sessions. Medication may also be prescribed depending on your child’s condition.

Speak to our dedicated doctors at Osler Health today for your child’s skin needs. 

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