What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungus infection of the skin. It has nothing to do with worms. People often get it from puppies or kittens who have ringworm. It can also be passed from person to person.

If your child has ringworm, your child will have a ring-shaped pink patch on the skin. The patch will: 

  • Usually be 1/2 to 1 inch in size with a scaly, raised border and clear center. 
  • Get slowly bigger. 
  • Be mildly itchy.

What is the cause?

Ringworm is caused by a fungus. People often get it from puppies or kittens who have ringworm. It can also be passed from person to person.

How long does it last?

With the appropriate treatment, ringworm should go away in 3 to 4 weeks.

How can I take care of my child?

Antifungal cream 
Buy Tinactin, Micatin, or Lotrimin cream at your drugstore. You won't need a prescription. Apply the cream twice a day to the rash and 1 inch beyond its borders. Continue this treatment for 1 week after the ringworm patch is smooth and seems to be gone. Encourage your child to avoid scratching the area.

Ringworm of the skin is mildly contagious. It requires direct skin-to-skin contact. After 48 hours of treatment, ringworm is not contagious at all. Your child doesn't have to miss any school or day care. The type of ringworm you get from pets is not spread from human to human, only from animal to human.

Treatment of pets 
Kittens and puppies with ringworm usually do not itch and may not have any rash. Pets with a skin rash or sores should be examined by a veterinarian. Also have your child avoid close contact with the animal until he is treated. Natural immunity develops in animals after 4 months even without treatment. Call your veterinarian for other questions.

Call 911

If you feel that your child needs immediate medical care.

Call us during office hours if:

  • The ringworm continues to spread after 1 week of treatment. 
  • The rash has not cleared up in 4 weeks. 
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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