First Aid: Ringworm

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First AidRingworm 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
  • itching
  • discomfort
  • 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.

Think Prevention!

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



Related Resources

OrganizationCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Dermatology Provides up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.
OrganizationAmerican College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.


Related Articles

Tinea (Ringworm, Jock Itch, Athlete's Foot) Jock itch, athlete's foot, and ringworm are all types of fungal skin infections known collectively as tinea. Most are easily preventable and treatable.
A to Z: Tinea Cruris (Jock Itch) Tinea cruris, also known as jock itch, is a skin infection of the groin area caused by several types of fungi often found on the skin.
A to Z: Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is a highly contagious infection of the skin, hair or nails caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte.
A to Z: Tinea Capitis Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) is a fungal scalp infection that can be cured with medication.
Skin, Hair, and Nails Our skin protects the network of tissues, muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and everything else inside our bodies. Hair and nails are actually modified types of skin.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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