Ringworm Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What are tinea infections (ringworm)?

Different fungi, depending on their location on the child's body, can cause ringworm, a condition characterized by a ring-shaped red, scaly rash or patches with clearing centers. "Ringworm" is a misleading term that refers to the circular appearance of the fungal lesion. There are no worms involved.     

There is an increased risk of contracting ringworm if your child:

  • is malnourished
  • has poor hygiene
  • lives in a warm climate
  • has contact with other children or pets that have ringworm
  • is immunocompromised by disease or medication

What are the most common types of ringworm?

The most common types of ringworm include:

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis or foot ringworm)

  • This common condition mostly affects teen and adult males.
  • It less frequently affects children before puberty.
  • Contributing causes include sweating, not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather conditions.
  • Symptoms of athlete's foot may include:
    • whitening of the skin between the toes
    • scaling of the feet
    • itchy rash on the feet
    • blisters on the feet

Jock itch (tinea cruris or groin ringworm)

  • This condition is also more common in males and occurs more often during warm weather conditions.
  • It is very rare in females.
  • Symptoms of jock itch may include:
    • red, ring-like patches in the groin area
    • itching in the groin area
    • pain in the groin area
    • does not usually involve the scrotum

Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis)

  • Scalp ringworm is highly contagious, especially among children.
  • It occurs mainly in children between the ages of 2 to 10.
  • It rarely occurs in adults.
  • Symptoms of scalp ringworm may include:
    • red, scaly rash on the scalp
    • itching of the scalp
    • hair loss on the scalp
    • rash elsewhere on the body
  • Ringworm of the scalp can also develop into a kerion, a large, tender lesion over the area of the initial ringworm.
  • This is caused by a hypersensitivity to the ringworm and my be associated with a rash elsewhere and tender lymph nodes in the neck.

Nail ringworm (tinea unguium)

  • An infection of the fingernail or toenail, characterized by a thickened, deformed nail.
  • This condition more often affects the toenails than the fingernails.
  • This occurs more often in adolescents and adults rather than young children.
  • Symptoms of nail ringworm may include:
    • thickening of the ends of the nails
    • yellow color to the nails

Body ringworm (tinea corporis)

  • This skin infection is characterized by a ring-like rash anywhere on the body or the face.
  • It occurs in all ages but is seen more frequently in children. It is more common in warmer climates.
  • The symptoms of body ringworm may include:
    • red, circular lesion with raised edges
    • the middle of the lesion may become less red as the lesion grows
    • itching of the affected area

The symptoms of ringworm may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

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