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Ringworm in kids - How do they get it and the best treatment options

treating ringworm in kids
Ringworm rash on arm


Ringworm in kids is a common fungal infection that causes typical enlarged raised red rings on the skin.

Ringworm or dermatophytosis has nothing to do with worms but is caused by different species of fungi.

These fungi thrive on warm and moist skin and cause a terrible itchy rash. 

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Types of ringworm - How is it spread - Ringworm rash - Is ringworm contagious - Recurring ringworm - Resistant ringworm - Diagnosing ringworm


The most common types are:


Ringworm of the face(Tinea faciale)

Ringworm on baby’s face can be itchy, and scratching it may cause it to spread further, across the cheeks and chin. Facial ringworm is often mistaken for atopic dermatitis or eczema. Children can easily get infected if they hug or hold a pet against their face.

Ringworm on the feet or athlete's foot (Tinea pedis)

Ringworm on the feet can cause a very itchy and burning feeling between the toes and scratching may cause bacterial infections. Children can catch ringworm of the feet when walking barefoot in damp and warm areas like a gym or swimming pool.

Ringworm on the body (Tinea corporis)

Ringworm in kids
ringworm in kids

Tinea corporis affects the leg ,arms or trunk. On the body the rash can be dry and scaly or wet and crusty.

The ringworm can be itchy especially in warm weather. In this case your child may scratch at the spots and this way he can spread it to other kids with his hands.

Ringworm on the scalp (Tinea capitis)

Scalp ringworm is very contagious and is common in children between 4-12 years old. Infection begins in a growing hair or on the skin surface and inflammation in the hair follicles leads to patchy hair loss. If not treated, ringworm on the scalp can lead to permanent hair loss.

Ringworm of the groin (Tinea cruris)

Tinea cruris thrives in warm, moist areas of the body and as a result, infection can affect the genitals, inner thighs and buttocks. Try to keep skin folds clean and dry and change nappies regularly. Older children should change their underwear every day.


How do kids get ringworm?

Ringworm in kids is easily spread in the following ways.

  • Contact with pets like dogs and cats. Be extra careful with animals with bald spots.
  • Other family members with a ringworm infection.
  • Using objects from an infected person like comb, towel or clothing.
  • Walking barefoot in the gym or by the pool. But also from a wet moist area like the shower floor in your home.
  • Some species of fungi live naturally in soil but are capable of infecting animals and people.

A Ringworm rash

a ringworm rash


Ringworm in kids causes a typical skin rash with slightly red, round lesions that have a sharp border.

Funny enough the center appears often clear just like normal skin. These lesions come in various sizes.



Is ringworm contagious?

Ringworm is very contagious and is easily spread by an infected person or animal. But it can also be spread by using an infected persons comb, towel or socks. Usually 48 hours after starting treatment ringworm is not contagious anymore.

What can you do to prevent ringworm in babies?

  • Keep your baby’s skin and groin area clean and dry.
  • Do not use clothing, towels, hairbrushes, combs, hats from other children.
  • Let your little ones wear sandals or shoes  around swimming pools.
  • Don’t let your baby touch cats or dogs with bald spots.
  • Dress your baby in loose fitting clothes.


Recurring ringworm in kids

If you want to get rid of ringworm you need to follow the treatment plan exactly as prescribed. After a few days the rash may disappear but the fungus may still be present on the skin.

Treatment usually lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Practicing good hygiene and bathing daily is a good way of preventing recurring ringworm infections.

Treatment of scalp ringworm in kids, treatment involves an antifungal drug called griseofulvin taken orally for 6 to 8 weeks.

They should also use an antifungal cream on the scalp to prevent spreading, especially to other children. At the same time they should wash the scalp with Selenium sulfide shampoo at least twice a week.

During this treatment children can normally to school. Children with a weakened immune system because of diabetes or leukemia are also more likely to have recurring ringworm infections.


Resistant ringworm rashes

Sometimes ringworm in kids doesn’t disappear after a month of treatment with over the counter anti fungal medication.

This type of fungus we call resistant and you will have to visit your doctor for stronger medication.
In this case your doctor will often prescribe oral anti-fungal medication.


How does your doctor diagnose ringworm in kids?

First of all, your doctor will examine the skin. The appearance of ringworm is very distinctive.

Second, your doctor may examine the skin by using ultraviolet light. The Wood's lamp examination has to be done in a dark room and may help your doctor confirm a fungal infection.

But because only 50% of a certain species of Ringworm glow under the Woods lamp so often a culture is used to verify the diagnosis.

Finally, a fungal culture is send to the lab for microscopic examination to determine if there is fungal growth. This may take several weeks because fungus is a slow growing organism.



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