Jock itch, athlete's foot, and ringworm are all types of fungal skin infections known collectively as tinea. They're caused by fungi called dermatophytes that live on skin, hair, and nails and thrive in warm, moist areas. Symptoms of these infections can vary depending on where they appear on the body. The source of the fungus might be soil, an animal (most often a cat, dog, or rodent), or in most cases, another person. Minor trauma to the skin (such as scratches) and poor skin hygiene increase the potential for infection.
It's important to teach kids to take precautions to prevent fungal skin infections, which can be itchy and uncomfortable. If they do get one, most can be treated with over-the-counter medication, though some might require treatment by a doctor.
Ringworm isn't a worm, but a fungal infection of the scalp or skin that got its name from the ring or series of rings that it can produce.
Symptoms of Ringworm
Ringworm of the scalp may start as a small sore that resembles a pimple before becoming patchy, flaky, or scaly. These flakes may be confused with dandruff. It can cause some hair to fall out or break into stubbles. It can also cause the scalp to become swollen, tender, and red.
Sometimes, there may be a swollen, inflamed mass known as a kerion, which oozes fluid. These symptoms can be confused with impetigo or cellulitis. The distinctive features of ringworm are itching, redness on the skin, and a circular patchy lesion that spreads along its borders and clears at the center.
Ringworm of the nails may affect one or more nails on the hands or feet. The nails may become thick, white or yellowish, and brittle.
If you suspect that your child has ringworm, call your doctor.
Ringworm is fairly easy to diagnose and treat. Most of the time, the doctor can diagnose it by looking at it or by scraping off a small sample of the flaky infected skin to test for the fungus. The doctor may recommend an antifungal ointment for ringworm of the skin or an oral medication for ringworm of the scalp and nails. Be patient! Ringworm takes a long time to go away.
A child usually gets ringworm from another infected person, so it's important to encourage kids to avoid sharing combs, brushes, pillows, and hats with others. Any exposed lesion should be covered when your child is in school, or anywhere they are in contact with others. Towels should be removed from the bathroom and laundered immediately to prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the family.