Ringworm on Scalp (Tinea Capitis): Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Ringworm on scalp

Scalp ringworm or tinea capitis is a common scalp infection among toddlers and children. Ringworm on scalp can also affect people with a weak immune system from other age groups.

It is a fungal infection which appears circular or ring-like, hence the name ringworm.

Characterized by severe inflammation of the shaft or hail scalp, other facts about scalp ringworm are:

  • It is a highly contagious fungal infection and often gets carried from one person to another. The carrier may or may not show any symptoms of tinea capitis.
  • Triggers include poor hygiene, warm, and damp environment.
  • Classification: Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) differs from the ringworm on the other body parts (tinea corporis).
  • Symptoms: Severe inflammation, scarring or permanent hair loss.

Related Reading: How to Get Rid of the Scabs on Scalp

What Causes Ringworm on Scalp?

Ringworm on scalp (tinea capitis) occurs due to mold-like fungal organisms called dermatophytes. The fungi cause skin and hair infections.

Found in humans, domestic animals, and soil, this fungus invades the ruptured shaft or hair scalp through the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum).

The causes of tinea capitis can be direct contact with an infected person, pet, or objects such as bed linen, combs or brushes, and clothing.

After invasion dermatophytes start digesting tissue’s keratin (protein). Maintaining good hygiene, cleanliness and taking proper medications can help to control and treat the spread of infection.

Ringworm on the Scalp Symptoms and Signs

Tinea capitis is characterized by scaly, gray or reddened areas or patches on the scalp. The infected skin develops patches which expand or enlarge slowly.

As the infection develops the hair become brittle or fragile leading to loss of hair from the area. These tender or painful spots also have small black dots where the hair has broken off at the scalp.

Related Reading: How to Get Rid of Ringworm?

Is Ringworm of Scalp Contagious?

Yes, ringworm of scalp is a highly contagious fungal infection. Unlike the name, ringworm is not a worm but a fungal infection.

We call it so because it creates circular marks on the skin with flat centers and raised border.

It gets transmitted to the individual through contact with:

  • Skin of the infected person.
  • Objects or surfaces used by the infected person or animal. These objects can be clothing, towels, bed linens, combs or brushes.
  • Household pets: cows, goats, pigs, horses, dogs and cats, especially puppies and kittens, are often the carriers of ringworm.

How long is Scalp Ringworm Contagious?

Though not everyone exposed to the ringworm will develop the infection; but if it does, then the first signs appear usually days after the contamination. During this period the person may still be contagious and act as the carrier of the ringworm on scalp.

The incubation period for scalp ringworm is about seven to 14 days. And even after you start the appropriate treatment, it remains contagious for until about 48 hours.

Risk Factors and Complications

Risk factors and complications for ringworm on scalp depend upon:

  • Age: Children of age four to 14 years catch the infection more readily than others.
  • Exposure: Places like schools and child care centers are prone to the outbreaks of tinea capitis. At such places, children are in close physical contact with each other which makes the infection spread quickly.
  • Contact with Pets: Household pets or domestic cattle may not show any signs but may carry contagion. While touching or petting the animal, this infection is readily acquired.

Sometimes, due to an overly vigorous reaction to the fungus, the ringworm on scalp may transform into kerions. Kerions are soft, raised, painful inflammations that cause yellow and thick crusting on the scalp that drains pus.

At these locations hair, roots become weak, and hair start falling out. Kerion may leave permanent scars or hair loss, even after the infection has subsided.

Ringworm on Scalp Home Remedies

Ringworm on scalp not only affects your scalp but shafts your hair and causes small patches of itchy and scaly skin. Here are a few ringworm on the scalp home remedies:

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil possesses both microbial and antifungal properties that can resist the ringworm infection efficiently.

It is one of the best remedies because it is easy to apply on the scalp and is an active hair conditioner. To use it, warm the coconut oil and apply it on your scalp. Apply it three times a day for faster results.

2. Garlic

Garlic is considered as the most favorite ancient remedy for curing the external infections. It comprises anti-fungal ingredients namely ajoene and allicin that can beat any external infection.

To use it, take two garlic cloves and crush them using a mortar and pestle, after adding few drops of water you can apply it to your scalp.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

It has strong antifungal property and can work effectively when applied to the affected area.

To use it, soak a cotton ball in undiluted apple cider vinegar and rub the cotton ball over your skin. Do it three times per day to treat this problem.

Related Reading: 12 Substitutes for Red Wine Vinegar and How to Use Them

4. Turmeric

Turmeric has various health benefits including antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can eliminate the infection easily.

To use it, combine freshly ground turmeric with some water and mix it until it forms a paste. Apply gently on your scalp and let it dry. Turmeric water and tea are good for the internal benefits.

5. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is one of the best natural remedies for both bacterial and fungal infections. It can treat the ringworm and may comfort the  itchiness and inflammation.

Ointments are readily available, or you can apply it directly to the affected area. At least repeat it two to three times a day.

6. Oregano Oil

It is powerful ringworm on scalp treatment which is better than any other commercial product. Oregano oil can treat any fungal infection including athlete’s foot and ringworm.

You can buy it online or any GNC store. To use it you should mix it with few drops of coconut oil or olive oil, and then apply it to the affected area.

7. Lemongrass Oil or Tea

Lemongrass oil and tea both have anti-fungal properties that can be very helpful in treating the fungal skin infections like ringworm on scalp. To use lemongrass oil you just have to mix few drops of it with the carrier oil.

Apply it directly to the skin twice each day. You can also apply a brewed tea bag directly to the ringworm for the right results.

8. Papaya

Papaya contains two most powerful ingredients papain and chymopapain. These two are enough to treat ringworm on scalp or any fungal infection of the skin.

To use it, just pick an unripe papaya cut it into two pieces rub it directly to the affected area and after some time wash it with warm water. You can do this process twice a day.

9. Soap and Water

When you are suffering from ringworm on scalp then you have to take extra care of yourself. Keep the area clean and dry as much as possible.

It will prevent further spreading of the infection. Before applying any home remedy, you just have to wash the area with water and antibacterial soap daily.

Keep the area dry to avoid moisture as moisture makes it easier for the fungus to spread.

How to Prevent Ringworm on Scalp?

Ringworm is an easily transmissible infection which makes it difficult to prevent. Still, you can be careful on day to day basis and reduce the risk to a greater extent.

  • Spread the Word: Let your children know about the hazards involved with this infection, its causes, symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment.
  • Shampoo Regularly: Make it a habit of washing your ringworm on scalp periodically, especially after haircuts.
  • Keep Clean: Maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness at common or shared areas, especially in schools, child care centers, gyms, and locker rooms. To avoid the infection from spreading, it is also essential to wash hands regularly.
  • Stay away from infected animals. Get your pets and domesticated animals diagnosed for ringworm by a trained veterinarian.
  • Avoid sharing personal use objects like clothing, towels, hairbrushes or other personal items.

In some cases, ringworm on scalp won’t respond to over the counter treatments or home remedies.

If your symptoms are not showing signs of improvement and are not responding to the treatment within two weeks, you can seek medical consultation.

Before it gets too late to handle such infections, it is better to consult your doctor.

Balentine, J., “Ringworm on Scalp,” Emedicine Health web site, September 11, 2017; https://www.emedicinehealth.com/ringworm_on_scalp/page3_em.htm.
“Ringworm (scalp),” Mayo Clinic web site, November 5, 2016; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ringworm- scalp/symptoms-causes/syc- 20354918.
“Natural Home Remedies to Treat Ringworm of The Scalp,” Curejoy web site, April 26, 2017; https://curejoy.com/content/home-remedies- to-treat- ringworm-on- scalp/
“Home Remedies for Ringworm on Scalp,” Speedy Remedies web site, January 12, 2011; http://www.speedyremedies.com/home-remedies- for-ringworm- on-scalp.html.

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