Ringworm is a type of skin infection cause by a fungus. It looks like a red skin rash that forms a ring around normal-looking skin. Ringworm can be of several types.
A ringworm infection is not caused by an actual worm. It is caused by fungi on the skin, hair, and nailbeds called dermatophytes. Different types of dermatophytes affect different parts of the body. They cause different types of symptoms.
Children may be at risk for ringworm if they:
The symptoms of ringworm vary depending on which part of the body is affected. The most common types of ringworm are listed below.
This problem mostly affects teenage boys and men. It usually doesn’t affect children before puberty. Things such as sweating, not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather can play a part in this problem. Symptoms may include:
This problem is also more common in males. It happens more often during warm weather. It is very rare in females. Symptoms of jock itch may include:
It does not usually involve the scrotum.
Scalp ringworm is highly contagious, especially among children. It happens mainly in children between ages 2 and 10. It rarely happens in adults. Symptoms may include:
Bad cases of ringworm of the scalp can also develop into a kerion. A kerion is a thick, pus-filled area on the scalp. It can also cause a fever. This can be caused by an overly active response of the immune system or an allergic reaction to the fungus. It may cause a rash elsewhere on the body and tender lymph nodes in the neck.
This type of ringworm causes the nails to become thickened and deformed. This problem affects the toenails more often than the fingernails. It happens more often in adolescents and adults rather than young children. Symptoms may include thickening of the ends of the nails and yellowing of the nails.
This skin infection is a ring-like rash that appears anywhere on the body or face. It happens in all ages, but is more common in children. It is also more common in warmer climates. The symptoms may include:
Ringworm may look like many skin problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Ringworm is usually diagnosed based on a health history and physical exam of your child. The ringworm rash is unique. This makes it easy to diagnose with a physical exam. In addition, your child's healthcare provider may order a culture or skin scraping of the rash to confirm the diagnosis.
Fungi can live indefinitely on the skin, so ringworm is likely to come back. Treatment may need to be repeated. Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment for scalp ringworm may include:
If your child has a kerion or a secondary sore (abscess) or bacterial infection, the healthcare provider may order additional medicines to help reduce the swelling. These may include steroids.
Treatment for ringworm of the body, groin, and foot is usually an antifungal cream or pill to take by mouth. The length of the treatment depends on the location of the ringworm.
Ringworm of the nails can be difficult to cure. It is usually treated with antifungal medicine taken by mouth.
Ringworm rarely has serious complications.
Ringworm can be prevented by:
Most types of ringworm can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. But ringworm of the scalp and nails require taking an antifungal medicine by mouth. This medicine must be prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure if your child has ringworm or if your child has a weakened immune system, call your child's healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: