Ringworm – a treatable fungal infections common in children

To start, ringworm is not a worm. It is a type of fungal infection that derives its name from the ring-shaped red, scaly patches with clear centers that characterize its appearance.

Skin fungi live in the top layer of skin cells in moist areas of the body, such as between the toes or in the groin and diaper area. Sometimes, the normal balances that keep fungi in check are upset, resulting in an infection.

Some fungal infections cause only a small amount of irritation, while other types penetrate deeper and can cause itching, swelling, blistering, or scaling.

Different fungi, depending on their location on a child’s body, cause ringworm. The risk of contracting ringworm increases if the child:

-Is malnourished
-Has poor hygiene
-Lives in a warm climate
-Has contact with other children or pets with ringworm
-Is immune-compromised by disease or medication

How is ringworm diagnosed?
Ringworm is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of the child. The lesions of ringworm are unique, and usually allow for a diagnosis simply on physical examination. The physician may also order a culture or skin scraping of the lesion to confirm the diagnosis.

The most common types of ringworm are:

- Athlete’s Foot
This common condition mostly affects teen and adult males, and is rarely found in children before puberty. Many things can cause athlete’s foot, include sweating, not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather conditions. Children are not typically susceptible to athlete’s foot unless present with a parent or there is ringworm infection in the nails.

- Jock Itch
This condition, tinea cruris, is more common in males and occurs more often during warm weather conditions. Although not as common, women can and do get jock itch.

- Scalp Ringworm
This is highly contagious, especially among children. It occurs mainly in children between the ages of 2 and 10, but rarely in adults. Ringworm of the scalp can also develop into a kerion, a large, tender lesion over the area of the initial ringworm and may be associated with a rash elsewhere on the body and tender lymph nodes in the neck.

- Nail Ringworm
This is an infection of the finger or toenail, characterized by a thickened, deformed nail. This condition is found more often in toenails than fingernails, and is more common in adolescents and adults than young children. Men suffering with nail ringworm are more likely to develop a recurrence, hence the rationale is to treat the disease aggressively.

- Body Ringworm
This skin infection is characterized by a ring-like rash on the body or the face. This occurs at all ages and is more common in warmer climates.

What is the treatment for ringworm?
Because the fungi can live indefinitely on the skin, recurrences of ringworm are likely, and treatment may need to be repeated. Specific treatment will be determined based on:

-The child’s age, overall health, and medical history
-Extent of the condition
-Location of the ringworm
-The child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
-Expectations for the course of the condition
-Child or parent’s opinion or preference

Consult your dermatologist.