Ringworm of the scalp or Tinea capititis is a common fungal skin condition affecting people of all ages. It is even more common in babies and school-aged children. Naturally, parents of toddlers are especially worried about the hair loss that accompanies this ringworm infection.
Let us study the details of Ringworm of scalp and related hair loss.
What causes hair loss following ringworm of the scalp?
Basically, all ringworm infections are caused by a family of fungi called dermatophytes. The fungal growth on the scalp leads to following symptoms:
- Circular lesions on the head that appear to grow and gradually increase in diameter.
- Black stub like dots where the hair shaft is bent or broken.
- The area may be itchy and scaly. Often parents mistaken this to be dandruff and, as a result, delay treatment. This could lead to permanent baldness.
- The ringworm could also spread to other parts of the body including the face, neck or arms.
Many kids in the age groups of 2 to 10 years are affected by tinea capititis. Their parents naturally wish to know if their hair loss is permanent.
Ringworm of the scalp is usually caused by Trichophyton tonsurans belonging to the dermatophyte family which affects all parts of the body having hair on them. The infection is highly contagious and can spread from person to person through direct contact or by using shared infected items. Some cases of ringworm of scalp in humans can also arise through pet animals like dogs and cats. However, such animal-transmitted ringworm is usually not passed on to other humans.
Ringworm of the scalp and hair loss: How is it treated? How long does it last?
If your baby or young school-aged child has developed patchy hair loss on scalp due to Tinea capititis, do not hesitate to see its pediatrician immediately. When treated early, the hair can grow back and the hair loss will not be permanent.
Most doctors put ringworm infected children on oral antifungal medicines like Griseofulvin. This must be taken twice daily with food for a period of 6 weeks. The hair will start to grow within a couple of weeks. Whatever prescription antifungal is given, make sure to complete its whole course, else the ringworm of the scalp could come back. If your child feels sick after taking the medicine, you could give it with some milk or ice cream to reduce nausea.
Additionally, you can use Lotrimin solution on the scalp twice a day. However, most experts are of the opinion that topical antifungal meds do not reach the root of the hair to eradicate the fungus. Hence oral medicines are a must.
Antifungal shampoos are also quite effective in preventing additional ringworm related scalp hair loss. These also make the condition less contagious and must especially be used daily for washing the child’s hair in case she/he is of school going age. Shampoos like Nizoral and Head And Shoulders are very effective in killing spores of the fungus. Ensure applying the shampoo on the scalp and leaving it on for at least 10 minutes before rinsing off as usual.Do not use any other shampoo or oil when following this treatment.
My child has ringworm of scalp and patchy hair loss. Will shaving its hair off completely help? Can a cap worn over the head prevent the ringworm of the scalp from spreading?
Many parents mistakenly believe that ringworm of the scalp hair loss can be treated by shaving the child’s hair off completely.The only treatment for eradicating the fungus completely is to take oral medicines as prescribed.A close hair cut or shaving the child’s hair completely will not help and could hamper the child’s self confidence.
Likewise, a cap will not prevent the contagious skin condition from spreading to other kids and might only make the child more self conscious.
Important points to remember
After your child has completed its 6 week course of anti fungal medication, make sure to see the doctor again. This ways, s/he can evaluate whether the medicine is working or whether the child needs to be put on another drug (or whether the same treatment needs to be repeated). In some cases, the doctor might have to take a sample of the fungus for testing. Based on the results of this culture test, one can determine the exact organism causing the ringworm of scalp hair loss. Also do not hesitate to see the doctor if there is pus oozing out of the lesions or if the ringworm has spread to other parts of the body.