Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD.
Tinea capitis of the scalp is a common childhood
disease that is often confused with other conditions of the scalp. It frequently
results in patchy hair loss. Although usually called ringworm because of its
round appearance, tinea capitis is actually caused by a very common fungus. It
rarely affects infants and adults. The most common age for infection is
2–10 years. It is transmitted by contact with other infected humans or
from infected animals. Because symptoms are frequently minimal, it can go
untreated for long periods. Tinea capitis is readily cured but usually requires
weeks to months of treatment with medication taken by mouth. It is usually
diagnosed by a doctor with a skin examination and cultures of a small sample of
hair or infected skin. These are examined under a microscope. Culture results
are usually available in 3 or 4 weeks.
Living With Your
Symptoms may be mild and
initially include redness and swelling of the scalp, followed by hair loss.
Pustules may be present. In some cases, a tender, swollen area with drainage may
be present. When severe, tinea capitis can also cause fever and enlarged lymph
capitis of the scalp should always be treated under the direction of your
doctor. Medications by mouth can cure tinea capitis, but treatment usually takes
weeks to months. It is very important to continue the entire course of treatment
and follow your doctor’s instructions until your doctor tells you to stop
treatment; otherwise you will be prone to have recurrences. Medications by mouth
are taken once or twice a day. Rarely these medications cause changes in liver
function tests, and your doctor may periodically examine your stomach or order
laboratory tests if necessary. Your doctor may also prescribe special creams or
shampoos if necessary.
• Avoid contact with infected
• Wash hair after every
• Continue treatment until
your doctor tells you to stop.
Check pets for skin infection or irritation, and consult your veterinarian if
• Check brothers and sisters
for ringworm of the scalp.
• Don’t share
combs, brushes, or hats.
haircuts, shaving the head, or wearing caps are not necessary as long as you are
taking your medication.
When to Call
• If fever, pus
drainage, or swelling occurs.
other areas of the scalp or body become involved, despite
• If tinea capitis recurs
after you have completed the course of treatment.