Ringworm in children

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What is Ringworm in children

Ringworm is a common fungal infection that can cause a red or silvery ring-like rash on the skin.

Ringworm commonly affects arms and legs, but it can appear almost anywhere on the body.

Despite its name, ringworm doesn’t have anything to do with worms.

Other similar fungal infections can affect the scalp, feet, groin and nails.

These fungal infections, medically known as “tinea”, are not serious and are usually easily treated. However, they are contagious and easily spread.

The symptoms of ringworm


  • A ring-like red or silvery rash on your skin – your skin will look red and irritated around the ring, but healthy inside
  • Scaly, itchy and inflamed skin

In more severe cases:

  • The rings may multiply, grow in size and merge together
  • The rings may feel slightly raised and the skin underneath may be itchy
  • Blisters and pus-filled sores may form around the rings
  • The ring spreads outwards as it progresses. You can have one patch or several patches of ringworm, and in more serious cases, your skin may become raised and blistered.

Face and neck ringworm

Ringworm on the face and neck may not appear ring-shaped, but may be itchy and swollen, and it can become dry and crusted.  

Hand ringworm

Ringworm on the hand often causes the skin to become thicker on the palm and in between the fingers. It may affect one hand or both and normally only appears on one side.

Treatment of ringworm in children

Most tinea fungal infections, including ringworm, are easily treated by using antifungal creams, tablets or shampoo.

You can also help to get rid of fungal infections and stop them from spreading by:

  • washing areas of affected skin daily and drying thoroughly, paying particular attention to skin folds and between your toes
  • in the case of a groin/foot infection, changing your underwear/socks daily, because fungi can persist in flakes of skin
  • with a scalp infection, not sharing combs, hairbrushes or hats
  • washing clothes, towels and bed linen frequently
  • wearing loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton or other natural materials

Prevention of ringworm in children

The advice outlined below will help to stop fungal infections from spreading.

  • The fungi that cause ringworm infections can survive on items such as furniture, hairbrushes, clothing and towels, and can be spread through contact with these items.
  • Therefore, if someone in your household has a ringworm infection, you should:
  • avoid sharing personal items – such as combs, hairbrushes, towels, clothing and bed linen
  • avoid scratching the affected areas of your skin or scalp, because it could spread the infection to other parts of your body
  • It’s important that other household members check themselves for signs of infection and get treatment if necessary.
  • If you suspect that your pet is the source of the infection, take them to your vet for treatment. Patches of missing fur is a sign that an animal has ringworm. Always wash your hands after touching a pet with the infection.
  • If someone in your family has a fungal infection, there is no need for them to stay off work or school. However, treatment should be started as soon as possible. Good personal hygiene should also be followed to stop it spreading to other children.

When to see your child’s doctor

Make an appointment to see your child’s doctor if your:

  • Has ringworm that has not improved after two weeks of treatment with antifungal cream
  • Has another medical condition, or is having medical treatment that is known to weaken the immune system, such as chemotherapyor steroid tablets

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