Doctors and providers who treat this condition


Scalp Ringworm (Child)

Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. It is not caused by a worm. Ringworm is contagious. It can be spread by contact with people or animals infected with the fungus. It can also be spread by contact with an object that is contaminated by infected person or animal.

A ringworm scalp infection causes a red, ring-shaped patch on the scalp. The rash may be small or a few inches across. The ring is often clear in the center with a scaly, red border. The area is dry, scaly, itchy, and flaky. There may also be blisters. These can ooze clear or cloudy fluid (pus). Your child may also have  hair loss in patches where the rash is on the scalp. Hair or a scraping of the scalp may be sent for culture.

Ringworm on the scalp is most often treated with antifungal medicine taken by mouth. It may take a week before the infection starts to go away. It may take a few weeks or months to clear completely. When the infection is gone, the skin may have scarring.

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider will prescribe antifungal medicine by mouth. Don’t stop giving this medicine until your child has finished it. Follow all instructions for using any medicine on your child. Absorption of antifungal medicine is improved when given with fatty foods like ice cream or milk.

General care

  • The healthcare provider may recommend medicated shampoo for your child. The shampoo may help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after bathing your child and washing his or her hair.

  • Make sure your child does not scratch the affected area. This can delay healing and may spread the infection. It can also cause a bacterial infection. You may need to use “scratch mittens” that cover your child’s hands. Keep his or her fingernails trimmed short.

  • If there are blisters, put a clean compress dipped in Burow’s solution (aluminum acetate solution) on them. This solution is available in stores without a prescription.

  • Wash any items such as hats, combs, brushes, or hair clips that may have touched the infection. Tell your child not to share these items with others. 

  • Don’t shave or close cut the hair. This does not help heal the infection.

  • Check your child’s scalp every day for the signs listed below.

  • It can take up to 6 weeks for the head lesions to resolve.

Special note to parents

Ringworm of the scalp is contagious. Keep your child from close contact with others and out of day care or school for at least 2 days after treatment has started. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before and after caring for your child. This is to help avoid spreading the infection.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider. Ringworm of the scalp can be very hard to treat. In very rare cases, the infection does not go away fully until the child reaches his or her teen years.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your child is younger than 12 weeks and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher because your baby may need to be seen by his or her healthcare provider

  • Your child has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C) at any age

  • Your child is younger than 2 years old and his or her fever continues for more than 24 hours or your child is 2 years and older and his or her fever continues for more than 3 days

  • The scalp becomes swollen, soft, hot and tender

  • Fussiness or crying that cannot be soothed

  • Foul-smelling fluid leaking from the skin 

  • Ringworm continues to spread after 2 weeks of treatment and regularly taking medicine


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