Ringworm Treatment for Children

As a parent, there are a few things you need to know before you begin a home-care ringworm treatmentprogram for your child. It would be downright useless administering ringworm cure based on limited information - only to find out a few weeks later that your child didn't have ringworm, in the first place; Or that the over-the-counter ointment that you've been using was not the best choice for treating the infection.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a common infection caused by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes. These are microscopic organisms that live in the soil, in animals, and yes, on the outermost layer of your skin. These fungi thrive in warm, moist environment, and in parts of the body that are often wet or moist from perspiration. Your child, as cited in Children's Hospital (Boston) article on ringworm, increased risk of being infected with ringworm if he or she:
  • is malnourished
  • has poor hygiene
  • lives in a warm climate
  • has contact with other kids or pets that have ringworm
  • is immunocompromised by disease or medication (this simply means that the child has a lowered resistance to infections due to diseases, like AIDS or diabetes, or medication)
A ringworm infection will appear like a red or pinkish circular lesion, usually around 1/2 to 1 inch in size, with a scaly raised border. The affected area may be itchy. As the ringworm patch grow bigger and the area in the center clears up, it will assume the appearance of a ring. This is probably how it got its name in the first place, although, by now, you know that ringworm has got nothing to do with worms.

Below are some pictures of ringworm affecting different parts of the body of some children.

 a child with ringworm
To see more ringworm pictures please click here.

Is it contagious? How did my child get it?

Yes, ringworm is highly contagious, especially ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). It can be transmitted through direct skin contact with:
  • an infected person
  • an infected pet
  • an infected object (like brush, hats, towels, clothes, exercise mats)
  • or contact with surfaces (like in gyms, public baths, public swimming pools) that have had direct contact with an infected person or pet
If you suspect that your pet puppy or kitten has ringworm, you must have it examined by a veterinarian immediately. Now, before you start blaming your pet for infecting your child, this is not always the case. Your child may have been infected by other kids at school, or by contact with infected objects or surfaces, as I enumerated above.

You must find out whenever possible, where the source of the infection was, and take the necessary action to prevent your child from getting infected again, in the future. Unlike pets, which can develop autoimmunity after about 4 months of infection (even without treatment), your child faces the constant risk of being infected with ringworm, again and again.

What parts of the body are usually affected?

Among children, there are four parts of the body that are usually infected with ringworm. Don't get intimidated by the Latin names, doctor use them simply to describe which part of the body the ringworm is located. These areas include:
  • The body (tinea corporis) – ringworm is present in your child's body, arms or legs.
  • The scalp (tinea capitis) – this infection, which affects the scalp and the hair deep into the roots, is highly contagious and persistent. Ringworm of the scalp, almost exclusively, affects children between the ages of 2 to 10. Symptoms may include itching, flaking or scaling (dandruff), small infected bumps, and hair loss. The infected child may have areas that appear bald due to premature hair loss, and there may be small black dots on the exposed scalp.
Sometimes, a large, tender, swollen, pus-filled lesion called "kerion" may be present. This is a complication believed to be caused by a child's hypersensitivity to the ringworm and may be associated with rash elsewhere in the body and tender lymph nodes in the neck. Ringworm of the scalp has been observed to disappears spontaneously at puberty.
The groin (tinea cruris) or "jock itch."Ringworm may appear as red, ring-like patches in the groin area, may be itchy or painful but doesn't usually include the scrotum.
The feet (tinea pedis) or "athlete's foot."Ringworm symptoms may appear in the moist areas between your toes and sometimes on your foot itself.

How do I go about treating ringworm in my child?

According to Dr. Vincent Iannelli, author of The Everything Father's First Year Book, a U.S. Board-certified Pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, before administering ringworm cure to your child, you must bear in mind that:
  1. Ringworm is often a misdiagnosis for other conditions. This means that skin diseases likenumular eczema and pityriasis rosea are often mistakenly diagnosed as ringworm. You have to be certain first that the child indeed has ringworm by having the condition properly diagnosed by a medical professional.
  2. Athlete's foot or ringworm of the feet is unusual in preteen children. These children often have Juvenile Plantar Dermatosis or a contact dermatitis when they have an itchy red rash on their feet.
  3. Children undergoing ringworm treatment may continue to attend school or daycare. Encourage your child to constantly observe cleanliness, refrain from scratching the affected area, and avoid direct skin contact with other children at school, to prevent spreading the infection, during the early stages of ringworm treatment.
The conventional advice to treat ringworm as early as possible has got wisdom to it. As soon as you detect ringworm in your child, treatment must be initiated immediately - to prevent the infection from becoming chronic and harder to cure.

Treating mild cases (a patch or two) of ringworm of the body, the feet, and the groin can be done at home. Dr. B.D. Schmitt, author of "Your Child's Health," (Bantam Books) suggests the following over-the-counter antifungal creams or sprays:
  • Tinactin (generic name: Tolnaftate)
  • Micatin (generic name: Miconazole)
  • Lotrimin (generic name: Clotrimazole)
Other preparations for homecare ringworm treatment mentioned in the MedicineNet article on ringworm are:
  • Nizoral (generic name: Ketoconazole)
  • Lamisil (generic name: Terbinafine)
You can order these medications online or purchase them from your local pharmacy, without a doctor's prescription. Clean and dry the affected area thoroughly, apply the cream twice a day (or according to package directions) to the affected area and one inch beyond its edges. Continue this treatment until the ringworm patch is smooth and appears to be gone.

Any of these medications are quite effective in the treatment of ringworm in your child. Ringworm usually responds well to homecare medications within 3 to 4 weeks.

Tinea Capitis

On the other hand, ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) is difficult to treat and may require several months of oral antifungal medication. Call your doctor if your child has ringworm of the scalp. Homecare ringworm treatment is not very effective in curing tinea capitis.

Because the scalp ringworm infection is deep down in the hair roots, your child must take medicine by mouth in order to cure it. Your doctor will prescribe a medicine by mouth to be taken daily with fatty foods such as milk, yogurt or ice cream, to increase absorption.

Treatment for scalp ringworm may include:

Oral Medication like –
  • Griseofulvin ( for example: Fulvicin or Grifulvin)
  • Terbinafine (for ex. Lamisil)
  • Itraconazole (for ex. Sporanox)
  • Fluconazole ((for ex. Diflucan)
Special Shampoo like
  • Selsun®Blue (containing Selenium Sulfide)
For a long time, the only effective treatment for ringworm of the scalp was Griseofulvin. In recent years, however, newer agents – like terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole – that are both very safe and effective, have been introduced.

How do I prevent my child from getting infected with ringworm?

Like they always say "prevention is better than cure." The same goes with ringworm, if your child don't have it, try your best for him or her not to have it.

In truth, ringworm is difficult to prevent because the fungi that cause this infection can be found practically anywhere. However, if you take some basic steps, ringworm infection can be prevented. Always encourage your child to:
  1. Be clean and hygienic as much as possible
  2. Be aware of the risks of infection
  3. Avoid direct skin contact with infected persons
  4. Wear protective footwear like flip-flops, sandals, or shoes when walking in infection-prone areas like the gym, public swimming pool decks, public baths, etc.
  5. Avoid skin contact with pets suspected to be ringworm-infected
  6. Never borrow or lend personal items like clothing, caps, brushes, etc.
I hope this has served to clarify some things regarding this infection and has helped you in determining the most effective way to care for your child. Ringworm treatment can be successful and infection can be prevented when we know what we're up against. Let's keep our children healthy.