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Tinea Capitis

(Ringworm of the Scalp; Fungal Infection of the Scalp)

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
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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.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca/

Dermatologists.ca http://www.dermatologists.ca/

References

American Academy of Dermatology. Tinea (dermatophyte) infections. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/professionals/Residents/MedStudCoreCurr/DCTineaInfections.htm. Accessed September 27, 2005.

American Academy of Family Physicians. Diagnosis and management of common tinea infections. American Academy of Family Physicians website. http://www.aafp.org/afp/980700ap/noble.html. Accessed September 27, 2005.

American Academy of Family Physicians. Tinea infections: athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm. American Academy of Family Physicians website. http://www.aafp.org/afp/980700ap/980700b.html. Accessed September 27, 2005.

Givens TG, Murray MM, Baker RC. Comparison of 1% and 2.5% selenium sulfide in the treatment of tinea capitis. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(7):808-811.

Tinea capitis: treatment overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated April 6, 2011. Accessed September 7, 2011.

Revision Information

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