Ringworm of the Scalp (Tinea Capatis) is a fungal infection that affects the scalp and hair shafts. Although it is most commonly found in young children, adults can also be susceptible to the infection.
Even though the common name for Tinea Capitis is “Scalp Ringworm”, the infection is not caused by an actual worm, it is caused by an infection with a type of fungus called a dermato-phyte. Dermatophytes are found in humans, animals and in the environment. The name “Ringworm” comes from the often raised, circular shape that the fungal infection displays.
What are the Signs and symptoms of a Fungal Scalp Infection?
The most common symptoms of scalp ringworm are an itchy scalp, brittle or weak hair that easily pulls out and tender or painful patches on the scalp. Portions of hair may snap off close to the scalp, leaving behind scabby or scaly, red or gray areas and bald spots. You may also see some tiny black spots where the hair has snapped off. If Left untreated, the infected areas may well grow and spread to the rest of the scalp. In some severe instances there could be pustules (white/yellow headed spots), yellow crusty patches and, very rarely, a large sore swelling filled with pus, which can be the sign of a kerion. In these severe cases, patients may have a fever and/or swollen, painful glands in the neck.
Is Ringworm of the Scalp Contagious?
Much like many other Ringworm infections, Tinea Capitis is a highly contagious fungal infection that can be caught by person to person contact or by items such as pillows, bedding, hair brushes, combs, towels and hats that have come into contact with the fungus. Ringworm can spread very quickly and easily, particularly amongst children.
Although they may show no symptoms, domestic pets, such as cats and dogs, can also spread the Ringworm fungus. Other non-domestic animals like goats, cows, horses, and pigs can also be hosts to the infection.
If you or your child has any of the above symptoms, it really is very important to get a professional diagnosis and prompt, medical treatment. A number of conditions can display similar symptoms, so it is always best to seek advice from your healthcare provider at the earliest opportunity.
Scalp Ringworm Diagnosis
Your doctor will visually examine the infected area, which may be enough for a positive diagnosis. However, in some cases a more detailed analysis will be required, which can involve taking samples of the infected skin flakes and hair from around the infected area. The samples will be then sent to a laboratory for further tests.
Scalp Ringworm Treatment
After a positive Diagnosis, Tinea Capitis is usually treated with both an oral medication, prescribed by your doctor and an anti-fungal shampoo which can be obtained from a drug store or online.
The most effective oral medications for Ringworm are Griseofulvin and Terbinafine, other drugs that are sometimes used are itraconazole and fluconazole.
Important Warnings Related to Griseofulvin & Terbinafine: These drugs can cause skin reactions. These may be serious and life-threatening. Symptoms can include hives, fever, swelling of your tongue and face, and peeling or blistering of your skin.
These drugs can cause serious liver damage. This effect is more likely if you use the drug at high doses or for long periods of time. Symptoms can include bruising that happens easily, tiredness, weakness, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.
If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, stop taking the drug and call your healthcare provider immediately.
Common side effects of Griseofulvin & Terbinafine
- Numbness and/or tingling in your hands and/or feet
- Yeast infections in the mouth
- Stomach pains
- Trouble sleeping
If the common side effects listed above are mild, they may last between a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if they are more severe, contact your healthcare provider.
Preventing Scalp Ringworm (Tinea Capitis)
Educate yourself and others by considering the potential risks associated with ringworm, how it is transmitted, the signs to look for and how to prevent it in the first place.
Tinea Capitis Prevention Tips
- Cleanliness is a key issue and can drastically reduce the possibility of an infection or re-infection.
- Wash hair frequently with an anti-fungal shampoo
- Make sure your child washes his/her hands on a regular basis. Taking a daily bath or shower will also reduce the risk of infection.
- Use an antibacterial disinfectant on all surfaces.
- If you have any pets, examine them for loss of fur and get them checked at the Vets.
- Educate your children not to share or borrow items such as hairbrushes, combs, clothing, hats and towels.
- Wash clothes, bedding and towels with an Anti-fungal liquid such as “Eradicil Laundry Treatment”
- Soak personal items such as; Hairbrushes and combs in a mild bleach solution. Make sure to thoroughly rinse them before using.
- Do not visit the hairdressers or barbers until the infection is clear
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