Should anyone with molluscum contagiosum go swimming in pools?
Parents, patients, teachers and coaches very often ask if the molluscum contagiosum virus can be spread in swimming pools.
The picture is not entirely clear. While some studies failed to find any association between swimming pool use and transmission of the virus, other studies did find a connection. But, the studies have been complicated by the widely variable incubation period of the virus (anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months), making any association between the date of use of the swimming pool and appearance of the infection difficult to confirm.
So, there is no real proof as to how, or under what circumstances, swimming pools, baths, saunas, or other wet and warm environments might increase the spread of the molluscum contagiosum virus. The swimming pool itself may not be the cause of the virus spreading, but the activities associated with swimming such as the sharing of towels, pool toys and swimming equipment which might transmit the virus from one person to another.
So it remains unclear whether swimming in potentially contaminated water is sufficient for the virus to be transmitted or whether transmission occurs when contact is made with contaminated objects such as swimming equipment.
The current view is that more research is needed to undestand if and for how long the virus can live in swimming pool water and if the pool water can infect swimmers.
Anyone with open sores or breaks in the skin should not go into swimming pools at all until the skin has healed as open sores and breaks in the skin can become infected by many different germs. This is a general recommendation and does not change for anyone with molluscum contagiosum.
As molluscum contagiosum may affect as many as 10% of the childhood population at any given time, there is no exclusion on children or other affected persons using public swimming pools, as exclusion could interfere with necessary physical and social activities and increase social stigma.
What precautions can be taken to avoid the spread of molluscum contagiosum at swimming pools?
- cover all visible bumps with watertight bandages or dressings.
- dispose of all used bandages at home.
- do not share towels, pool toys, kick boards or other swimming equipment.