The Realities of Ringworm in Children

Fungal skin infections are common among children, especially those who are active or participate in physical education or sports. From jock itch to athlete’s foot, skin infections are frustrating, uncomfortable and in some cases painful. Ringworm, also known as Tinea, fungal skin infections are caused by a fungus that lives on the skin, hair and nails. They develop best in warm, moist areas so gym shower areas or swimming pools are often an ideal nesting spot. Those with scratches or other minor damage to the skin and those who fail to practice effective hygiene are at greatest risk for infection. Ringworm can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications, although in some cases intervention from a doctor may be required.

Ringworm is contagious but is among the least serious yet more common skin conditions that effect youth. Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm but a fungus that attacks the scalp or skin. It is known as “ringworm” because its hallmark symptom is the appearance of a ring or rings on the skin. On the scalp, the flakes caused by ringworm are typically written off as dandruff, and the small sores on the skin are thought to be pimples. Typically these pimple-like sores become patchy and scaly and the scalp becomes tender and swollen. In more advanced cases, the inflamed mass might be exhibit signs of fluid, although this is also a symptom of more serious conditions such as Cellulitis. Typically, itchiness, redness and ring-like lesions are the key indicators of a ringworm infection. Ringworm is also not limited to the head or scalp. Ringworm of the nails can occur on hands and feet causing the nails to because brittle, thick and yellowed.

Because ringworm has its hallmark appearance, it is usually easy for doctors to diagnose. After viewing the lesion they will scrape off a sample of skin and run it through a fungal test. In addition to being fairly easy to diagnose, ringworm is also simple to treat, usually through an antifungal ointment or oral medication. Topical antifungal treatments usually clear the condition in less than two-weeks, however some cases of Tinea are not conveniently treated by topical ointments (infections of the scalp or nails, for example.) In these cases, oral medications are required.

Ringworm most commonly strikes those who have had contact with an infected person, either directly or through shared objects like combs, brushes, hats, pillows and other items that come in direct contact with the skin. Because skin-infecting fungus thrives in wet and moist areas, it also stands to reason that one way to prevent various forms of Tinea is to avoid situations in which the skin may become overly sweaty or moist. If you have an active child, for example, boxer shorts may be more ideal than fitted underwear, as it allows the skin to breathe easier. For girls, cotton panties are usually recommended. If possible girls should also avoid pantyhose, tights, and other clothing articles that can trap moisture against the skin.

For children, the diagnosis of Ringworm can be a scary thing as just the name itself sounds scary. However, with proper treatment and the advice of a good family doctor, you will be able to put your children on the road to recovery and prevent future outbreaks as well.

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