First Aid: Ringworm
Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin seen most often on the scalp, body, feet (“athlete’s foot”), or groin (“jock itch”). Ringworm actually isn’t a worm at all — its name comes from how it looks, like a red ring or group of rings with clear centers.
Signs and Symptoms
On the skin:
- starts as a red, scaly patch or bump
- circular pattern with raised, bumpy, borders (often with a scaly center)
On the scalp:
- may start as a round, reddish, pimple-like sore
- becomes patchy, flaky, scaly, or crusty (may first be mistaken for dandruff)
- causes swelling, tenderness, redness, bald patches (usually circular), and broken hairs
What to Do
- Call your doctor if you think your child has symptoms of ringworm.
- Follow the doctor’s treatment instructions carefully. Depending on the type and site of the infection, these may include using over-the-counter or prescription cream for the skin, or prescription oral medication for the scalp.
- Discourage your child from picking at the infected area since this could cause infection.
- Contact your doctor if increasing redness, swelling, or pus occurs.
Prevent ringworm by encouraging your kids to:
- avoid sharing combs, brushes, hair accessories, pillows, hats, and headphones
- wear flip-flops at the pool or in the locker room shower
- wash sports clothing regularly
- shower after contact sports
- wash hands well and often
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014