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Ringworm is a rash, caused by a fungus, which appears as different types of rashes depending on where it is on the person. There are several types of ringworm: ringworm of the body, ringworm of the foot, ringworm of the groin (“Jock Itch”) and ringworm of the scalp.

What you may see in your child

  • Ringworm of the body usually looks like a scaly, raised red ring on the skin which slowly gets bigger over time. The red ring may look like a worm. The fungus is spread through direct contact with infected people, animals or even things in the environment with the fungus on it. It may or may not itch.
  • Ringworm of the Foot (also called athlete’s foot) is a flaking, red, moist, very itchy rash on the sole of the foot and between the toes. Sometimes the itching will be so bad that your child may complain of pain. This type of fungal infection can be caught from contact with others with the infection or from fungi in wet or damp areas such as pools, locker rooms, or shower areas. Be sure to keep the feet as dry as possible. Wash and dry feet and change socks twice a day.
  • Ringworm of the Scalp is a rash that causes the loss of hair if not treated. This rash can be very severe. There may be small bumps, crusting and scaling of the scalp and the back of the neck that looks like dandruff. This infection can be spread from person to person and possibly from sharing combs, brushes and other items. One type of this infection can be caused by contact with household pets.
  • Ringworm of the Groin is a common fungal infection of the groin and upper thighs. The skin may be red and scaly. It may be very itchy. This infection may be a result of moisture on the skin, close-fitting clothing and rubbing of the skin against clothing or skin. Being overweight may make a person more likely to get this infection.

Evaluation and Treatment

Ringworm of the Body or Foot:

Your child’s doctor may prescribe a cream. You must use the cream for the amount of time that your child’s doctor prescribes so the infection will not come back. The ringworm may disappear within two weeks after treatment, but the actual infection may not be all gone by then. Treatment will usually last for at least 4 weeks to keep the infection from coming right back.

Ringworm of the Scalp:

Your child’s doctor may need to take a sample of hair or scalp from your child and try to see and grow the fungus (a culture test.). It may take two weeks to get the final result of the culture test. If your child is not getting treatment and you have not heard from your child’s doctor, you may call to get the culture results.

Since ringworm of the scalp gets deep into the hair and skin, creams, lotions and ointments will not cure the problem. To cure ringworm of the scalp, your child will be treated with Griseofulvin, a medicine that is taken by mouth. Your child must take this medicine for at least six to eight weeks. You may use a medicated shampoo, Selsun Blue, to help the itching and scaling. This will reduce the treatment time.

Home Care

 For All Types of Ringworm

 Children do not need to be kept out of school or day care for these types of infections.

For Ringworm of the Scalp

Your child may return to school after starting Griseofulvin and having one hair washing with Selsun Blue. Other family members must not share your child’s hairbrush, comb, pillows, washcloths, towels, barrettes, ponytail holders and hats. Hair cuts, shaving of the head, or wearing a hat are not necessary. Wash your child’s hats, combs, brushes, sheets, and pillowcases in hot, soapy water.


  • The rash has not cleared up in four weeks.
  • The ringworm continues to spread after one week of treatment.
  • Your child has trouble taking the medicine.
  • You notice weeping areas or a yellow crust.
  • The scalp becomes swollen.
  • You have questions or any other concerns.

You must keep your follow-up appointment. Sometimes longer treatment is needed.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/06

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Ringworm: A Primer