Ringworm is a contagious skin infection common among babies and children. The belief that ringworm is caused by worms is a widespread misconception. Ringworm is the common name for tinea corporis, a fungal infection, which forms ringlike patterns on the skin. The name ringworm comes from these rings, which can look like round worms below the skin's surface.
Ringworm infection is caused by a type of fungi called dermatophytes. Tinea is the medical name for dermatophyte infections. There are several types of tinea infections including tinea corporis, or ringworm of the body; tinea pedis, or athlete's foot; tinea cruris, or jock itch, and tinea capitis, ringworm of the scalp. Tinea corporis and tinea capitis are most commonly seen in babies and children, although children can become infected with all four types of tinea.
Your baby can become infected with ringworm through direct skin-to-skin contact with another infected person or through contact with the hands of an infected person who has been scratching the rash. Additionally, the fungus that causes ringworm can spread via contaminated personal items such as towels, clothing and bedding. Household pets, especially puppies and kittens, can also transfer ringworm to humans.
Babies with ringworm will present with slightly red, round, raised lesions over the face, trunk, or limbs. These lesions typically have a border consisting of small scales, blisters or bumps. The skin between lesions and in the center of lesions usually appears normal. Lesions can vary in size from about the size of a dime to several inches across. Lesions that are close to each other may come together, taking on a multilobed appearance. One of the most common symptoms of ringworm is itching at the infection site. Other symptoms can include redness, burning, scaling or fissuring of the skin. If the scalp is infected, hair loss may also occur.
According to AskDrSears.com, the standard treatment for ringworm is an over-the-counter antifungal cream called clotrimazole, commonly known as Lotrimin or Mycelex. Clotrimazole should be applied to the affected areas and surrounding skin twice daily. Typically, babies will require at least two weeks of treatment. While most cases of ringworm are treated with over-the-counter medications, your pediatrician will tell you which treatment is right for your child. If the rash has not improved after two weeks of treatment, your pediatrician may decide to treat with a three- to four-week course of oral anti-fungal medication, such as griseofulvin and terbinafine.
One of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of ringworm is proper handwashing. Parents and caregivers should wash their hands after contact with infected children. Infected children should also have their hands cleaned regularly and should be encouraged not to scratch at lesions. If necessary, infant mittens can be used with babies to keep them from scratching. All blankets, clothing, towels, hats and other personal items used by your baby prior to treatment need to be washed in hot water or discarded. Babies with ringworm are no longer considered contagious after 48 hours of treatment.