Ringworm affects either the skin on the body (tinea corporis) or the scalp (tinea capitis). Both kinds of ringworm are caused by fungi (also known as dermatophytes), which are commonly spread to children from young animals, such as household pets.
Ringworm can also be spread by contact with infected humans and contaminated objects, including clothing and towels.
Ringworm initially appears on the skin as a red ring with a clear centre, scales and a lumpy or raised edge. It’s very itchy and grows gradually in size, sometimes spreading to other areas.
If your child’s scalp is affected, you might notice a small bald patch with hair stubble present.
When to see your doctor
Your child should see the doctor if:
- there are several sores present
- the sores are painful
- the rash doesn’t start to improve after a week’s treatment
- the rash is spreading despite treatment
- there are bald patches in your child’s hair.
Your doctor might use a special light to help diagnose ringworm, or send some skin scrapings from the area to a laboratory for examination.
Ringworm usually responds well to treatment with antifungal creams, which can be purchased over the counter at the pharmacy. Treatment with antifungal creams can take one week to several weeks. Your doctor might recommend that you keep applying the cream to the area for a week after the rash has disappeared to prevent recurrence.
If antifungal creams don’t work, or the ringworm is on your child’s scalp, your doctor might prescribe special antifungal tablets. These need to be taken under medical supervision. If the infection is on the scalp, your child might have bald patches for a few weeks after it has cleared. Don’t worry, though – the hair will grow back.
Encourage your child to stop scratching the affected area. It’s a good idea to treat all family members affected by ringworm.
Your child can still go to day care, preschool or school if she has ringworm.
Consult your vet for treatment if your pet is the cause.