What increases my risk for tinea capitis (scalp ringworm)?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner
Toddlers and children are at the highest risk for tinea capitis, also called scalp ringworm. It is a highly contagious condition that can spread quickly in school and daycare environments. It can easily be spread by coming in contact with sheets, towels, hats or helmets, combs, or other items that have been used by someone with scalp ringworm. Any situation where people are in close contact, such as school or an overcrowded home, will enable the infection to spread more easily. Because the mold-like fungus that causes scalp ringworm breeds in damp, warm places, inadequate hygiene can be a major risk factor. Whether or not the infection is visible on its skin, a pet (especially a cat) can carry scalp ringworm and infect children who touch it.
Diana K. Blythe, MD

Tinea capitus, or scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection. Because it is spread by contact, a child in daycare or school has more opportunities to get it due to the increased people and shared environment. Pets are another mode of transmission.

In addition, fungal infections thrive in warm, moist places, so hair that keeps the water close to the scalp is also a risk factor. Parents, who are taking out braids that have been left in for weeks, sometimes find ringworm where the braids had been. Braided hair does not dry as quickly and the scalp is a great heat source. This creates a perfect environment for tinea to grow.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Children under age 10 have the greatest risk for tinea capitis, or scalp ringworm. Tinea capitis is an infection caused by a certain type of fungus. The risk for developing tinea capitis is especially high among African Americans. Dermatologists say that may be due to the popularity of certain hair products in the African American community. Having a pet may also increase the risk of developing tinea capitis.

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