ZocdocAnswersWhat causes scalp ringworm?

Question

What causes scalp ringworm?

My son, who just turned nine, came dow with an ugly-looking case of what our doctor said was scalp ringworm. What exactly is this and how did he get it? If he got it from another child at school, doesn't that child have to get treated too (or else he could reinfect my son)?

Answer

Ringworm, or tinea capitis, is a fungal infection of the scalp. There are a few different fungal species that can cause tinea capitis, and they are contagious, in that the infection is spread by sharing combs and other objects that touch the hair. Most children are contagious if they have a tinea capitis lesion; the good news is that, if the child is taking appropriate treatment, they are no longer contagious and they can return to school. It would be important, if there is another child at your son's school who has a similar tinea capitis lesion, for that child to be treated as well. The treatment for tinea capitis lesions requires oral antifungal medications. Although other types of fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, usually respond to simply topical antifungal creams, tinea capitis is notoriously resistant to topical creams. Also, given that the tinea can cause significant hair loss, it is best to get right to source of the infection with a strong oral medicine. There are numerous oral medicines that are used, including griseofulvin, which is probably the most popular choice. These medications must be taken usually for 6-8 weeks in order to get rid of the infection, and they can be prescribed by your son's pediatrician.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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