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What is the best way to treat ringworm?
Q: My 2-year-old granddaughter has ringworm. What is the best way to treat the symptoms? The doctor gave her antibiotics, but that is all.
A: Bonnie, ringworm (also known as “tinea”) is a common infection of the skin and scalp in young children. Its name, however, can be confusing—it is not caused by a worm but rather, by a fungus.

When ringworm infects the skin, it causes ring-shaped, raised, scaly, coin-sized lesions. They may be pink or light-coloured, and are often itchy. When ringworm infects the scalp, it causes pink, swollen scalp patches that can lead to hair loss.

Once the doctor has diagnosed the ringworm infection, it is treated by an antibiotic—specifically an antifungal medication. Ringworm of the skin is treated by antifungal cream that is put on the lesions, usually for 2-4 weeks. If the ringworm has gotten into the scalp, an oral antifungal medication is required, usually for 4-6 weeks.

Ringworm is spread by touching or scratching the sores of the skin or scalp and then touching someone else. It is also spread by sharing combs, brushes, hats, towels, clothes, and bedding. Sometimes pets such as cats and dogs can carry ringworm and spread it when children hug them. Ringworm is contagious from the untreated skin lesions, but it is not contagious after treatment is started. In addition to treating your granddaughter’s ringworm infection, it’s important to try to prevent the return of ringworm and spread to other family members:
  • Check other children, adults, and pets at home. Get medical or veterinary treatment if needed.

  • Wash hands after contact with the lesions.

  • For ringworm of the scalp, clean and disinfect combs and brushes.

  • Don’t share combs, brushes, clothes, towels, and bedding.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician