Definition  

Tinea capitis is an infection of the scalp. It is caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte. It occurs most often in children. It is very rare in adults.

Ringworm of the Scalp  
si55551344_96472_1

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes  

The fungi thrive in warm, humid environments. Factors that may contribute to tinea capitis include:

  • Hot
  • Humid climates
  • Excessive sweating
Risk Factors  

Factors that increase your chance for tinea capitis include:

  • Age: under 10 years of age
  • Race: African
  • Daycare centers
  • Exposure to pets with the infection
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sharing combs, brushes, or hats
  • Diabetes
  • Immune system disorders, such as HIV infection
Symptoms  

Symptoms of tinea capitis include:

  • Itching of the scalp (not always present)
  • Bald patches
  • Possibly areas with swelling, redness, scales, sores, or irritated skin

If not properly treated, it may cause permanent hair loss and scarring.

Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child may need to be referred to a specialist. A dermatologist focuses on skin issues.

The diagnosis is often made with close inspection of the scalp. If the diagnosis is uncertain, the doctor may scrape your child’s scalp or clip a few hairs for testing.

Tests on the sample may include:

  • Microscopic examination
  • Fungal culture
Treatment  

The main treatment for tinea capitis is prescription antifungal medicines. The condition, though, can be difficult to treat. In some cases, tinea capitis can return after treatment. For some children, the condition goes away during the time of puberty.

Using an antifungal shampoo may help to reduce the risk of spreading the condition to others.

Prevention  

To help reduce your child’s chance of getting tinea capitis, take the following steps:

  • Shampoo your child’s hair regularly.
  • Do not allow your child to share headgear, brushes, or combs.
  • Wash towels, clothes, and any shared items used by an infected person to prevent spreading it to others in the household.
  • Take your pets to the veterinarian for treatment if they develop skin rashes.