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What causes scalp ringworm?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrics

Scalp ringworm is caused by a fungal, not a worm, infection of the scalp. Because the skin of the scalp has a thicker keratin layer, the creams that work on fungal infections of the body likely will not work. Many times with scalp ringworm you need a prescription oral anti-fungal medication. Some of the only times that the creams work are for younger babies who do not have as thick of a keratin layer yet.

Tinea capitis, more commonly known as scalp ringworm, is caused by a fungus (not a worm, despite the name). The fungi affect the outer layer of the scalp and cause hair breakage by getting into the hair shaft. This mold-like fungus flourishes in warm, moist environments. Wet skin, inadequate hygiene, and minor scalp injuries can increase your risk of scalp ringworm. The infection is very contagious, so you can also contract tinea capitis by touching the skin of someone who has it or personal items of theirs that have touched their skin. Animals can carry scalp ringworm too. Scalp ringworm is treatable, so contact your doctor if you think you or your child is infected.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.