Illnesses & Infections
Written on 30 April 2021
Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection of the skin that has nothing to do with worms. It's called ringworm because the infection appears as a rash in a ring or round shape.
It can be itchy, but it's not painful or dangerous. It's the same fungus that causes athlete's foot. It's common in children and usually affects only the body or scalp.
If your baby has ringworm, she will have a rash of one or several red rings on her chest, stomach, thighs, or back. The rings will be crusty or scaly on the outside and smooth in the middle. They may also feel itchy. As the fungus grows, the rings get larger, ranging in size from a few millimetres to a few centimetres.
Ringworm can also affect your baby's scalp. It usually appears as dandruff or bald patches. It can be dry and crusty, or moist and filled with pus. It is easy to confuse ringworm with dandruff or cradle cap.
See a photo of ringworm in our rashes and skin conditions gallery.
The ringworm fungus would have entered your baby's body through broken skin, such as a cut or scratch, or a patch of eczema. Your baby probably got it from an infected person or pet, or from touching contaminated sheets, towels, toys, or clothes. Your baby could also have got it from infected soil if she was crawling around in the garden or park.
Scalp ringworm is much more likely to have been passed to your baby from another person, from sharing a hairbrush, towels, bed linen, or hat. Shared public facilities, such as swimming pools, public toilets, or changing room showers, are also potential sources of ringworm infection.
For any unusual rash on your baby, start by talking with his doctor. She will decide the best treatment for you baby. This could include:
Your baby's ringworm should clear up if you treat it with an antifungal cream, the same type of cream used for athlete's foot. Look for a product with one per cent or two per cent of clotrimazole or miconazole. Ask your paediatrician for advice.
Put a small amount of the cream over and a little bit beyond the infected area twice a day. Carry on treating it for a further one week to two weeks once the rash has cleared. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Some children are sensitive to these creams, so try using only a little bit of the cream first to see how your baby's skin reacts.
If a rash develops in response to the cream, take your baby to the doctor. Your doctor will suggest alternative creams.
Ringworm should get better with treatment in about four weeks. If your baby's ringworm carries on for longer than this, take her to the doctor.
If your baby has a stubborn case of ringworm, the doctor may prescribe something stronger than the over-the-counter cream. And in some rare cases (rarely), an oral medication is also necessary.
Medicated shampoo and oral antifungal
If your baby has ringworm on her scalp, this can be more difficult to treat using a cream. See your doctor, who will probably prescribe antifungal tablets and a medicated shampoo.
Your child might also develop an area of inflammation, called a kerion, in response to the fungus. It'll appear as a moist, swollen area on the scalp, with pustules (little pimple-like bumps). This will clear up when you treat your toddler's scalp for the ringworm.
It is also important to follow these hygiene measures to help remove the ringworm fungus from around your home:
You may have heard that there are some herbal remedies for treating ringworm. However, it's best to consult your doctor before starting any other treatment for your baby.
Occasionally ringworm can spread to another part of your baby's body. If it appears on her scalp, there's a small possibility it could cause slight scarring or hair loss.
Ringworm can sometimes lead to a secondary infection by bacteria or another fungus. Your baby may need antibiotics if she develops another infection. Take your baby to the doctor if your baby develops other rashes or symptoms.
It's hard to protect your baby from ringworm, but there are a few things you can do to keep it from spreading further:
Generally speaking, you don’t need to keep her away from his usual activities. Ask your daycare provider what the centre’s policy is on children attending when they have ringworm. Once your baby has started treatment, it should be no problem, but until then, they may or may not want you to keep her at home.
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