Baby Health: Ringworm
Ringworm is one of several related skin infections called tinea and it can occur on the skin, scalp and nails. You will probably have heard of (and may even be familiar with!) athlete’s foot, which is the term used to describe ringworm when it occurs on the feet, but in young children it’s more likely to appear on the face, torso or scalp. It’s very contagious and common in toddlers and preschoolers who tend to mix more with other children. Here’s gurgle’s roundup of the facts you need to know to recognise, treat and prevent it…
1. It’s not a worm
Ringworm is actually a fungal infection caused by mould-like fungi called dermatophytes that live on dead cells from the skin, hair, and nails.
2. It doesn’t always appear as a ‘ring’
Ringworm first appears as a red, scaly, itchy (but not painful) patch before gradually forming the shape of a ring or a series of rings with raised borders and a smooth, clear centre. The rings can range in size from a few millimetres to a few centimetres and may merge if they’re close together. If ringworm occurs on the feet, it usually doesn’t form a ring at all, but instead appears as red, scaly patches.
3. It can resemble cradle cap
On the scalp ringworm may first appear as a sore and progress into a dry flaky patch, or a moist patch that oozes fluid. It’s fairly easy to confuse it with cradle cap but if your child is over a year old, cradle cap is unlikely so if you notice sore patches on her scalp, with hair loss, it’s most likely to be ringworm.
4. Your child can catch it from people, pets and soil
Ringworm is very contagious and easily spread if your child comes into contact with another child who has ringworm and the fungus gets into your child’s body through a scratch or a patch of eczema. It’s also possible to catch it from a pet dog or cat, and it also can be transmitted through soil if your child has a cut on her hands and they get dirty while she’s playing outside.
5. It’s easy to treat
Thankfully, ringworm can be easily treated with antifungal cream or ointment – your doctor may prescribe one or you can buy an over-the-counter cream containing one or two percent clotrimazole (your pharmacist can recommend one). Use the cream as directed and watch for any signs of sensitivity, such as a rash. You should continue using the cream on the affected areas for a week or so after the patches have cleared. If your child has ringworm on her scalp your doctor will prescribe an oral antifungal medicine and a medicated shampoo.
6. Prevention is simple
- If you suspect your child may have ringworm, keep her home from nursery or her childminder until you have seen the doctor. Once she’s being treated, it’s not necessary to keep her at home.
- Wash your hands after applying ointment to your child’s skin and ensure she frequently washes her hands.
- Keep her nails short so that she can’t break the skin while scratching and try to distract her from doing so as scratching can transfer fungi spores to her fingers and under her fingernails, making it easier to pass on.
- Avoid using the same towels as your child and don’t let any siblings use her towels or facecloth, or play with her soft toys.
- If she has ringworm on her scalp don’t let siblings use her hairbrush, comb, or pillow, or wear her hat.
- If you have more than one child and are in the habit of bathing them together, don’t do this as long as one of them has ringworm.
- If you’re at all suspicious your pet might have ringworm (giveaway signs are crusty patches of skin with fur loss), take it to the vet.