Ringworm In Kids: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Shreya Jagdish

Ringworm is a contagious skin infection that mainly affects children’s fingernails, feet, and the scalp. Contrary to popular belief, ringworm is not caused by a worm but by the fungus organism which thrives in damp, warm environments.

While ringworms are not a dangerous infection, they can cause a lot of itchiness and discomfort to kids. 

Here’s everything you need to know about ringworms in kids:

Causes of ringworms in kids

Ringworm, also known as tinea capitis, is caused by fungi called dermatophytes which needs keratin found in the outer layer of our skin to grow. Dermatophytes thrive in moist and sweat-filled environments. Children usually contract this infection through pets like kittens and guinea pigs or because of poor hygiene. They can also pick up ringworm from infected people and contaminated objects such as carpets, floors, and soil. 

The fungal infection is highly contagious and spreads easily. If your child is infected ensure that other members in the family do not share personal items like combs, towels or bed linens with him or her. 


The most common and distinctive feature of ringworm is the red ring-like rash. However, children might get other conditions such as athlete’s foot or jock itch because the symptoms of the fungal infection vary depending on the part of the body affected. 

Athlete’s foot

Source: megahow.com

This symptom mostly affects teenage boys and men with damp and sweaty feet and causes redness, flakiness, peeling or cracking of the skin.

Other signs also include: 

  • Whitening of the skin between the toes
  • Found on soles of feet, areas between toes and toenails
  • Scaling of the feet
  • Itchy rash on the feet
  • Blisters on the feet

Children who have not yet puberty usually don’t get athlete’s foot. 

Jock itch

Source: WebMD

This symptom is also more common in males and affects the groin area which is in between your child’s stomach and thigh. Children tend to get an itchy rash on their inner thighs or their rear end. This symptom spreads and develops usually when your child sweats or is in steamy showers or locker rooms. Similar to athelete’s foot, the jock itch also causes redness, flakiness, peeling, or cracking of the skin in the groin area. 

Other signs also include: 

  • Red, ring-like patches in the groin area
  • Itching in the groin area
  • Pain in the groin area

Scalp ringworm

Source: WebMD


One of the most common symptoms of ringworm is the scalp ringworm which is highly contagious especially among children between ages 2 and 10. Scalp ringworms which causes a round bald-like patch may sometimes resemble dandruff. 

Some of the other signs include:

  • Red, scaly rash on the scalp
  • Itchy scalp
  • Hair loss on the scalp
  • Rash elsewhere on the body

Body ringworm

toddler rashes

Another common symptom is the generic body ringworm which is the red ring-like rash that appears anywhere on the body or face. It happens across all ages but is more common in children and ranges from the size of a dime to a quarter. The ringworm also tends to be dry and crusty on the periphery and smooth and soft in the centre. If left untreated, the size of the ringworm increases. 

Other signs may also include:

  • Red, ring-like rash with raised edges
  • The middle of the rash may become less red as the lesion grows
  • Itching of the affected area

Risk Factors 

Ringworms are caused by Dermatophytes which thrives in sweaty and damp environments. So kids that have poor hygiene are at a higher risk of the infection. 

Other kids who might be at risk are: 

  • Malnourished
  • Live in a warm climate
  • Have contact with other children or pets that have ringworm
  • Have weak immune systems because of illness or medicines
  • Play contact sports, such as wrestling 
  • Use shared bathrooms or locker rooms 

Prevention Tips 

The easiest way to prevent ringworm infection is by practising good hygiene habits such as washing hands with soap and taking a shower after sweaty or sports activities. 

Other prevention tips include:

  • Avoiding wearing other people’s hats or clothing
  • Keep affected body part dry
  • Avoiding close contact with someone who has ringworm
  • Wash bedding daily 


Ringworm can be treated with an antifungal cream or with pills. Children with scalp ringworm may be prescribed a special shampoo in addition to the other medicines. Besides medicinal treatment, parents should also refrain from covering up ringworm rashes with a bandage as this increases moisture which will further cultivate the fungus. Parents should also not treat ringworm with antibiotics because the medicine is meant to kill bacteria and not fungus which is what causes ringworms. 

With correct treatment, your child’s ringworm symptoms should disappear within two to four weeks.

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