Ringworm in Kids – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The term “ringworm” scares us all. When it happens to kids, it scares parents even more. It is more prevalent than one would like it to be. Let us find out what it is.


What is Ringworm?

Contrary to what the name suggests, ‘ringworm’ is not caused by worms but by fungi. It enters the epidermis through scars or other exposed tissue.


What are the Causes of Ringworm?

Ringworm can be contracted very easily due to the communicable nature of fungi. Following are the causes of ringworm in kids:

1. Lack of immune strength may cause ringworm. Young children are more prone to being affected by ringworms as their immunity is lower and they spend more time playing on the ground.

2. Among young children, those aged 3-9 are deemed more likely to contract ringworm, as they begin going to school and are exposed to the surrounding environment and other kids.

3. Ringworms on the scalp are usually caused by sharing a hat or a hairbrush with an affected individual. Ringworms affecting the body are commonly caused by sharing of towels.

4. Pets are also a likely source of ringworm contagion. It is passed to the child through direct contact.

5. Sometimes, the centre of the rash may clear up, but a new infection could grow around the edges if one isn’t careful.

Symptoms of a Ringworm in Children

Watch out for these symptoms of ringworm infection in children. As it is best to nip the problem in the bud in the early stages itself:

1. A ringworm infection usually begins as a flat, scaly area on the skin, with a slightly raised and reddened outer ring, hence the name ringworm. This outer ring could expand over time.

2. If ringworms affects the scalp, it could cause hair loss in the affected region.

3. Itchy scalp is another major sign of a ringworm infection.

4. The rings may develop blisters or become scaly.

5. Ringworms on child’s face, similar to ringworm on the scalp can be quite itchy. When exposed to the sun, it could feel like it is burning and become itchier than usual.

6. A ringworm infection on the body may sometime lack the symptom of itchiness. However, its appearance is similar.

7. All cases of ringworm start with the appearance of a single ring. If left unchecked, it may spread to other areas as well.

8. The “rings” could be as small as a few millimetres in diameter, and the area inside appears smooth and normal. Over time, the rings even expand outward in size.

A kid feels itchy

How is a Ringworm in Children Identified?

Ringworm is usually identified by doctors on sight. Rarely, a sample of skin may be taken for lab analysis, if it is suspected to be something else.

Ringworm Treatment for Kids

Ringworm is contagious, but by no means a serious ailment. One can opt for pharmaceutical products or even home remedies, as they are just as effective.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment of ringworm includes topical creams, special shampoo and oral medication.

1. OTC Creams

Over the counter ringworm treatments for kids mainly include mainly antifungal cream for ringworm in children. These topical creams have a slight possibility of side-effects.

2. Special Shampoo

Ringworm shampoo for kids is easily available in the market and is a better alternative than creams for ringworm on the scalp.

3. Medication

Oral ringworm medicine for kids is usually prescribed by paediatricians if creams or home remedies do not work. Oral medication is also effective than ringworm cream for kids to treat ringworm on the scalp.

4. Hybrid

Your paediatrician will recommend a combination of medication, shampoo if the child affected is still a baby.

Home Remedies

Anti-fungal elements are commonly found in nature, just as fungi itself is. A lot of natural products we use in our households possess anti-fungal properties which can treat a ringworm infection:

1. Garlic

The compounds ajoene and allicin found in garlic possess strong anti-fungal properties, making them easily available vegetable suitable for treatment for ringworm in a child.

  • Crush garlic into a paste and mix with a carrier oil to dilute the intensity of garlic so that it does not cause irritation to the skin. Carrier oils also make it easier for the skin to absorb essential oils from the garlic.
  • Rub this paste over the affected area and leave for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Wash it off later. Repeat this thrice a day.

Garlic can be replaced by garlic-oil in this remedy, but carrier oil is still required.

2. Tea Tree Oil

The benefits of tea-tree oil for the skin make it a popular ingredient for soaps, body oils, and other cosmetic products. Its anti-fungal properties make it one of the popular home remedies for ringworm on children.

  • Similar to garlic paste or oil, tea tree oil needs to be mixed with a carrier oil before it can be applied to the skin.
  • Start by mixing tea tree oil with a carrier oil in an equal ratio. If this mixture irritates the skin, try increasing the ratio of carrier oil to tea tree oil.
  • After application, keep the oil on for ten to fifteen minutes before washing away. Repeat this process thrice daily.

3. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil

Lavender’s distinct aroma has the effect of calming down children and lifting their mood.

  • Lavender oil needs to be mixed with a carrier oil before application to the skin. The ratio of lavender oil to carrier oil is 2 drops (lavender) for 1 tablespoon (carrier oil).
  • Leave the applied mixture on the skin for 10 – 15 minutes and wash off. Repeat thrice daily.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has antifungal and antiviral properties.

  • Apply coconut oil to the affected area and rub it in using cotton swabs.
  • Leave it overnight and repeat daily.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has gained popularity for its various benefits. It is good for skin and for health too. To treat ringworms here is what you can do:

  • Wet a washcloth with ACV and rub it on the affected parts for about thirty minutes.
  • Rinse and repeat twice daily.
  • As ACV is acidic, it is advised that you apply a small amount of it onto unaffected skin to check if your skin may be extra-sensitive to the acidity.

6. Neem oil

Neem oil

Neem is an age-old remedy for various skin-related problems. It can treat ringworm infections too. Here is how you can use neem oil for treating ringworm infections:

  • One can simply rub neem oil onto the affected areas and rinse it off after thirty minutes.
  • Repeat this thrice daily.
  • You can also mix neem oil, turmeric powder, and sesame oil together in equal parts and apply this mixture to the affected area. Leave this mixture on for one hour before washing it off. Repeat twice a day.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is known for its antibacterial properties. To treat a ringworm infection, use turmeric in the following way:

  • Take ½ a teaspoon of turmeric powder and add a few drops of olive oil to it, until the mixture achieves the consistency of a paste.
  • Apply this paste to the affected area and bandage it with gauze.
  • After two hours, wash it off and reapply the paste. Continue this routine daily, until skin is disinfected completely.

8. Oregano Oil

For treating ringworms using oregano oil, follow this procedure:

  • Mix 2-3 drops of oregano oil in a tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Rub this onto the affected parts. You need not wash this away later, as it is absorbed by the skin.
  • Repeat thrice daily.

9. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera has several antiseptic agents in it and acts as an inhibitor of bacterial, fungal, and viral growth.

  • Cut open one of its leaves.
  • Rub the gel found inside the leaf over the affected area on the skin.
  • Let the gel remain for 30 minutes before washing it off. Repeat twice daily.

10. Colloidal Silver

  • Use a small amount of colloidal silver. Rub it onto the affected area with a cotton swab before going to bed.
  • It is advised that the affected area should be bandaged; however, it isn’t a necessity.
  • Wash it away the next morning and repeat it the following night, until symptoms fade away.

How to Prevent Ringworm in Children?

Good hygiene is the first step to preventing ringworm. Fungal growth is accelerated on damp surfaces and humid conditions, so teach your children to towel themselves fully dry after every shower.

Sharing towels with other children, walking barefoot in a common shower, swimming pool, etc. are common ways how children catch ringworm.

If your pet is a free spirit who likes to spend a lot of time outside the house, it would be wise to scan him for symptoms regularly.

When to Consult a Paediatrician?

RIngworm is not a serious issue, however, in the following conditions you should consult a paediatrician:

  • If the ringworm is on the scalp and there are more than two spots of ringworm.
  • If OTC creams or home remedies haven’t cleared up ringworm in 2 weeks.
  • If there is a sign of pus leakage from the affected spot.
  • If ringworm is accompanied by fever.

If your child is affected, take steps to prevent ringworm from spreading to others in the family. Change your child’s bed sheets every day and reserve a towel for his exclusive use.