Ringworm of the Scalp in Children: Care Instructions

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Ringworm is a fungus infection of the skin. It is not caused by a worm or bug. Ringworm causes round patches of baldness or scaly skin on the scalp. Ringworm of the scalp is most common in children 3 to 9 years old.

Sometimes the infected area is inflamed, reddened, crusty, itchy, and tender, with small swollen bumps.

The fungus that causes ringworm of the scalp spreads from person to person. You can get ringworm by sharing hats, combs, brushes, towels, pillowcases, or helmets. Once in a while, it can also spread from a dog or cat to a person.

Ringworm of the scalp is treated with pills. Ringworm may come back after treatment. Treating ringworm of the scalp can prevent scarring and permanent hair loss.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your child's doctor if your child has any problems with a medicine.
  • Ask your child's doctor if a special shampoo might help. Your child's doctor can let you know if and how often your child can use one.

How can you help prevent ringworm of the scalp in your child from coming back or spreading?

  • As soon as your child starts treatment, replace their combs and brushes. Or you can clean them after each use with diluted household bleach. To dilute household bleach, follow the directions on the label.
  • Don't let your child share hats, helmets, or other objects that are used for the head or hair. Ringworm-causing fungus can live on objects, people, or animals for several months.
  • Wash your hands well after treating or touching your child's rash.
  • Wash your child's clothes, towels, and bed sheets in hot, soapy water.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the rash on the skin.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's ringworm does not improve after 2 weeks of treatment.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.