Ringworm is a fungal infection of the scalp or skin that is highly contagious. It can occur in infants if they have contact with an infected human, pet, or anything else carrying the virus. Ringworm of the scalp can cause hair loss in patches until properly treated. Do not be confused by the name of the condition, however. It has nothing to do with real, living worms.
It is easy for a dog or cat to track in a contagious condition and pass it along to your child. If your pet has any symptoms, such as hairless, rough patches, take him to the veterinarian to begin treatment. In the mean time, limit your child’s contact with the pet. Even towels, toys, and hairbrushes can carry the fungus. Daycare is a common culprit, as well.
Ringworm begins small, but can grow up to an inch in diameter. It develops in a circular pattern, which is where the name comes from: it appears to be a worm coiled under the skin. Contact your child’s pediatrician if any strange skin rash or balding occurs. Smooth bald patches before 6 months of age is normal. However, the common infant condition known as cradle cap can look very similar to ringworm.
Treatment of ringworm is simple and hardly has any side effects. In most cases, a topical, antifungal cream will clear up any patches on the skin. Ringworm on the scalp, however, is a bit harder to cure. Your pediatrician may recommend a medicated shampoo as well as an oral, antifungal medicine. It could take up to 8 weeks for ringworm of the scalp to clear up.
If your child is exposed, he may return to school or daycare once he begins treatment. It is hard to prevent your child from getting ringworm in the future, as it is highly contagious and can be carried on practically anything. Be sure to wash any clothing, bedsheets, etc. once the child begins treatment. This may prevent another breakout. However uncomfortable or unsightly (if hair loss is involved), ringworm is not a dangerous condition for your child.