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Virtual Pediatric Hospital: CQQA: Ringworm
Pediatrics Common Questions, Quick Answers Ringworm (Tinea)
Donna D'Alessandro, M.D.Peer Review Status: Internally Reviewed
Lindsay Huth, B.A.
Creation Date: November 2001
Last Revision Date: April 2002
Common Questions, Quick Answers
What is ringworm?
Ringworm is a skin infection that can affect any part of the body. It usually
affects the skin, nails, or scalp.
Ringworm of the scalp is called tinea capitis.
Ringworm of the skin and nails is called tinea corporis.
Ringworm of the groin is called tinea cruris or jock itch.
Ringworm of the feet is called tinea pedis or athlete's foot.
What causes ringworm?
Ringworm is caused by a fungus, not a worm.
Who can get ringworm?
Anyone of any age can get ringworm. It is most common in children ages 3-9.
People, animals, and rodents can get ringworm. It can also be found in soil.
Swimmers, children in day care, and people with weak immune systems (from
cancer, HIV, etc.) are at greater risk.
It is possible to get ringworm more than once.
What are the symptoms of ringworm?
Ringworm of the skin causes itching, redness of the skin, and circular sores.
The sores usually have a red edge and a clear center. Rings may form around
Skin could become lighter or darker on the sides of the face, the neck,
back, and chest. This is most common in teens and young adults.
Ringworm of the scalp may start like a pimple and then become patchy, flaky,
or scaly. It can cause hair loss or cause hair to break in stubbles.
Ringworm can also affect the area under men's beards.
Ringworm of the nails may affect 1 or more nails on the hands or feet.
Nails may become thick, white, and break easily.
The area between the toes may itch, burn, and become red.
Jock itch causes patches of itchy areas on the upper thigh and lower stomach,
but not on the penis or scrotum.
Is ringworm contagious?
Yes. Ringworm is contagious.
It can be spread by direct contact with an infected person, pet, or surface.
It can be spread by sharing clothing, brushes, shoes, towels, toys (such
as stuffed animals) and other items with an infected person.
Ringworm (athlete's foot) can spread by touching an infected surface (in
public showers, on gym mats, pool decks, carpets, and couches).
How is ringworm treated?
The doctor may take a test to make sure your child has a fungal infection.
The doctor will probably recommend an antifungal cream or shampoo.
Keep the skin clean and dry. Use a drying powder if needed.
In some cases, oral medication (by mouth) may be helpful.
Do not scratch the sores.
Pets who have ringworm should be treated by a veterinarian.
How long does ringworm last?
With treatment, symptoms usually get better within 4 weeks.
Some cases may need longer treatment.
How can ringworm be prevented?
Practice good hygiene. Keep skin clean and dry.
Wear clean clothes every day.
Put on clean socks after exercising.
Your child is more likely to be infected if he has a cut or scratch. Clean
and disinfect wounds as soon as possible.
An infected person's clothing, brush, and other items should be washed after
Wear sandals in public showers or near pools.
When should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if your child has a red sore on his skin that itches.
Call the doctor if symptoms do not improve after 7 days of treatment.
Call the doctor if symptoms last for more than 4 weeks.
Call the doctor if the area near the patch becomes red, warm, tender, or
Call the doctor if your child has a fever with his rash.
Call the doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Ringworm is a skin infection that usually affects the skin, nails, or scalp.
Ringworm is caused by a fungus.
Anyone of any age can get ringworm. It is most common in children.
Ringworm causes itching, redness of the skin, and circular sores.
It can be spread by contact with an infected person, pet, soil, or items.
Ringworm is usually treated with cream, shampoo, or oral medication.
Symptoms usually get better within 4 weeks of treatment.
Keep body and clothes clean and dry to help prevent infection.
Call the doctor if your child has a rash or other symptoms of ringworm.
Hait E M.D. Ringworm. MedlinePlus. 2001 July 30 (cited 2001 October 3).
Available from: URL: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001439.htm
Health Square. Ringworm of the Body. (cited 2001 October 3). Available from:
Hyde P M.D. Ringworm. KidsHealth. 2001 April (cited 2001 October 3). Available
from: URL: http://www.kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=207&cat_id=&article_set=21944
Intelihealth. Ringworm (Tinea) 2001 March 30 (cited 2001 October 3). Available
from: URL: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/20722/10628.html
Additional pediatric resources: GeneralPediatrics.com | PediatricEducation.org | SearchingPediatrics.com
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