All About the Scalp Ringworm

First of all, the ringworm of the scalp is not a worm! The word ringworm comes from the clinical feature of this disease. Symptoms include red, circular spots on the skin.

The condition is the result of a fungal infection similar to an athlete’s foot, jock itch,  and so on.

This skin infection is also known as Tinea Capitis. It usually affects the scalps and the shafts of the hair present on the epidermal layer of the skin.

The infection is highly contagious (spreads from person to person). 

It can also spread by sharing mutual items between affected areas and unaffected individuals. Although children are more susceptible to ringworm of the scalp, a person can develop the infection at any age.

What Causes Ringworm of Scalp?

Dermatophytes are a particular type of fungal infection on the skin of humans and other animals. Fungi usually grow on dead materials. As the skin is a deadly substance, a fungal infection on the skin can increase it. 

The familiar places in which the ringworm can develop include the skin of the limbs, hair, fingernail, etc.

These fungi require a requisite amount of damp environment. The fungi multiply rapidly on moist and sweaty skin. Hence, poor hygiene and tropical climates are the leading causes of the development of this disease.

The condition can also spread through the following mediums:

  • Animals: You can get a ringworm rash by touching a ringworm-infected animal. Therefore, ringworm can spread by caressing or grooming ringworm-infected dogs or cats. 
  • Infected person: Direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual is common for ringworm to spread. It can increase the risk of spreading the infection to the contacted part of the body.
  • Objects: Ringworm can be spread by coming into contact with things or surfaces recently touched by an infected person or animal. For example, if you share clothing with the infected person, it can contaminate you as well.

Also Read: Athlete’s Foot: A Fungal Skin Disease

What are the three symptoms of ringworm?

Among the various symptoms caused by ringworm of the scalp, itchiness of different parts of the scalp is one of the most acute symptoms of the infection.

The itch can be uncontrollable and might lead to the scraping off of the skin of the scalp. As a result, red lesion-like areas can appear, which turn into bald spots later. 

Other Symptoms include:

  1. The appearance of black dots marks the area of the former presence of the hair shaft.
  2. The hair starts turning brittle as fungus on the skin outgrows it.
  3. Pain in the scalp is a classical characteristic of ringworm infection.

Other less common symptoms may include:

  1. A low-grade fever is also a possible symptom.
  2. In severe cases, crust-like swellings can develop. These swellings are known as kerion. They are instrumental in draining the pus collected on the scalp. It can cause permanent balding of the scalp and the appearance of scars.

Factors of Risk

The following are risk factors for scalp ringworm:

Age: The most prevalent victims of scalp ringworm are toddlers and school-aged youngsters.

Exposed Environments: Ringworm outbreaks are widespread in schools and child care facilities, where the virus spreads readily via close contact.

Animal contact: A pet, such as a cat or a dog may be infected without displaying any symptoms. By petting the animal, children might get the sickness.

Ringworm Rash Prevention

By Doucefleur/ Getty Images

Even though prevention is tricky in routine life, one should make all efforts to reduce the incidences of infection. For example, 

  • Educate yourself and others around you about the fungus on the skin. Be cautious of the possibility of contracting ringworm from sick humans or animals. Inform youngsters about ringworm, including symptoms to look out for and how to avoid becoming infected.
  • Regular application of hair products such as moisturizers and shampoo can bring down the incidences of ringworm to a bare minimum. 
  • Checking the pets for bald patches and extensive itching associated with sweat. 
  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Make sure you and your youngsters wash your hands frequently, especially after interacting with pets. Keep common spaces, such as schools, child care facilities, gyms, and locker rooms, clean.
  • Personal items should not be shared. Teach kids not to share their clothes, towels, hairbrushes, sports equipment, or other personal belongings.

Some persons with scalp ringworm acquire an inflammatory reaction known as kerion. 

Kerion causes thick, yellow crusting on the scalp and appears as soft, elevated swellings that drip fluid.

Hair falls out or is readily pulled out after using kerion. In addition, an excessively aggressive reaction to the fungus on the skin may cause the disorder, resulting in scarring and irreversible hair loss.

When should you see a doctor?

A variety of scalp disorders can have a similar look. If your kid experiences hair loss, scaling, irritation on the scalp, or any other odd aspect of the scalp, consult a doctor. 

It’s critical to have a proper diagnosis and treatment with prescription medication as soon as possible. Ringworm of the scalp is not treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams(Nailon Nail Lacquer), lotions(Nizral 2% Solution), or medications(Syscan 150 Capsule).

Proper hygiene of humans and animals is the only way to treat this condition appropriately. In addition, regular checkups with the doctor are necessary to avoid any such fungal infection on the skin.

The condition of ringworm rash in animals can also be prevented by regular vet consultation and maintaining the everyday hygiene routine. 


1 What will happen if ringworm is not treated?

Ringworm can spread to other parts of your body if left untreated. You may also be in danger of infecting someone else. Hair loss and scarring are two more possible side effects.

2 Can my dog give me ringworm?

Infected pets can spread ringworm to humans and other animals. There have even been incidents of ringworm being passed from cows, goats, pigs, and horses to humans! 

Many studies have found that children are more prone to contract ringworm from a pet than adults, owing to a combination of intimate contact with their pets and poor cleanliness.

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.