Identifying ringworm

Could you please tell me a little bit about ringworm?

The term ringworm applies to a group of infections of the skin and scalp, commonly seen in children. It is not caused by worms, but by fungus.

Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) occurs primarily in children who haven’t reached puberty (usually between 2 and 10 years of age), and more often in boys than in girls. The infection is spread from person to person. The most common signs and symptoms are scalp scaling and patchy hair loss. Sometimes a painful, inflamed lump that resembles a boil may appear on the scalp. These lesions (called kerions) are not secondary infections, but are thought to represent an immune response to the fungus infection itself. Treatment of the ringworm infection also will eradicate the kerion.

The pediatrician may diagnose ringworm of the scalp just by looking at it or may use a special lamp (Wood’s lamp) to examine the scalp. Some species of the fungus are more obvious when the Wood’s lamp is used (they emit bright, yellow-green fluorescence under the light). A fungal culture may also be done to grow the fungus causing the infection from the infected hairs.

Ringworm of the scalp is treated with oral Griseofulvin for 4-8 weeks. The use of 2.5% selenium sulfide shampoo twice weekly for 2-4 weeks limits the spread of the infection to other children by reducing infectivity.

Ringworm on the skin of other parts of the body is called tinea corporis (however, infections of the groin, hands, feet, nails and beard have specific terms applied to them). Children may spread bodily infections to one another or acquire it from infected kittens or puppies. The skin lesions are characterized by one or more round, well-defined red scaling patches with a clearing center and a border of small pimple-like bumps. It is this enlarging round lesion with its raised border that gives the infection the name ringworm. The appearance of the skin lesion(s) may vary and may be confused with a number of common skin rashes in children. The pediatrician may make the diagnosis simply by looking at the rash or may need to culture it as well. Tinea corporis is treated with topical (on the skin) antifungal cream such as clotrimazole for 10-14 days.

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  1. Jorjette C Wendy Sinsabaugh

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