little boy scratching his arm

A child with itchy red skin may have you running to a Loveland dermatologist. That rash may actually be ringworm, a contagious and fairly common fungal disease. Finding ringworm on your child can be scary and overwhelming, but treating it is rather simple. To best treat the condition and keep your child calm, here’s everything you need to know about ringworm and the best steps to take.

What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a skin infection that is caused by fungus. It often looks like a red rash in a ring on the skin. Contrary to the name, ringworm isn’t caused by an actual worm, but instead by fungus on the skin, nail, or nails. Ringworm is more common in children who are malnourished or have poor hygiene, or those who live in a warm climate, play contact sports like wrestling, or use shared bathrooms or locker rooms. Ringworm spreads easily through contact from shaking hands or giving hugs.

What are the Symptoms?

Ringworm can take on many forms depending on the type of fungus. The most common sign is an itchy rash in a distinctive ring form, which separates ringworm from other skin conditions. The center of a ringworm rash is clear skin, which is usually around an inch or less in diameter. Ringworm rash is often red, itchy, and flakey. Ringworm may start as what appears to be a red pimple or small bump on the skin that you might not think much about. Over time, the ring will grow and likely become more painful and start to peel or crack.

Ringworm can occur on many parts of the body and is commonly seen on the scalp, fingernails, or arms. It is related to other skin fungal infections. When the fungus infects the groin or upper thighs, it is known as jock itch. This same fungus when it affects the feet is called athlete’s foot

How Can It Be Treated?

Most forms of ringworm can be treated with an antifungal cream or pill. The strength of the medication and the length of treatment depends on where the ringworm is located, though most children find that an over-the-counter antifungal medicine is usually effective. For ringworm on the scalp, an antifungal shampoo can get the job done, while kids with ringworm on their fingernails can use an antifungal nail polish application. Keep the infected area clean by encouraging your child to regularly wash their hands and the ringworm area. Practice good hygiene by changing their clothes every day. Most cases of ringworm will go away after about three weeks of treatment. If symptoms haven’t gotten better in four weeks, take your child to the doctor. Visit a Loveland dermatologist for personalized treatment options.

Because ringworm comes from a fungus that can live on the skin indefinitely, the symptoms may reappear after treatment is complete. If this is the case, simply repeat the treatment. If symptoms continue to disappear and then reappear, visit a doctor for other treatment options. Ringworm is contagious, so if your child has a rash, encourage them to use separate towels from the rest of the family and keep them away from shared bathrooms or wet, warm areas where they could spread the fungus to other people. They should also keep their hands to themselves and avoid touching other people.

Ringworm is an uncomfortable fungal condition that can get worse if it isn’t treated. If your child has ringworm, take the right precautions with antifungal medicine. If symptoms persist, visit your dermatologist for further treatment options.