Scalp Ringworm (Tinea Capitis) Pediatric Care Plan

By Chelsea Johnson, MD, FAAP
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
February 9, 2021

What Is Scalp Ringworm?

Scalp ringworm, known in the medical world as tinea capitis, is a fungal infection of the scalp caused by different species of dermatophytes (fungus that causes disease).

Most cases of scalp ringworm occur in children between the ages of 3 and 7 years. It presents as many scaly flat areas and patches of broken hairs and bald spots on the scalp. In more severe cases, you may notice red bumps and pus-filled blisters as well as systemic symptoms like fever and malaise. 

How Is It Diagnosed?

Ringworm is most commonly diagnosed by the doctor examining the skin. If the diagnosis is in question, a Wood’s lamp shining on the scalp hair will show a blue-green fluorescence with certain ringworm types. Collecting a scraping of the scalp skin to grow fungus in a culture will identify the specific fungus causing the ringworm.

What Are The Symptoms of Scalp Ringworm?

  • Round areas of hair loss on scalp
  • Short broken hairs
  • Broad areas of fine scales and skin flakes
  • Itchy scalp
  • Red bumps
  • Lymph node swelling in the neck

How Is Tinea Capitis Treated?

Tinea capitis must be treated with antifungal medicines taken by mouth, because the organisms invade the hair follicle and cannot be reached by topical therapies.

Treatment usually takes 4-8 weeks due to slow growth of the fungus it takes a long time to get rid of it.

Antifungal shampoos may be used with medicines taken by mouth to decrease scale and contagiousness. Secondary bacterial infection can accompany ringworm which is treated with antibiotics by mouth. 

How Is Tinea Capitis Prevented?

To prevent ringworm, don’t share clothing, sports gear, hair brushes, towels, or sheets. If you think your child has been exposed to ringworm, wash their clothes in hot water with special antifungal soap.  Be sure to wash your child’s scalp regularly with shampoo, especially after haircuts.

See A Doctor in person if…

  • The rash doesn’t go away after two weeks of home treatment. 

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.