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Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp. It is also called ringworm of the scalp.
Fungal infection - scalp; Infection - fungal - scalp; Tinea of the scalp; Ringworm - scalp
Fungi are a type of germ that can live on the dead tissue of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. The body normally hosts a variety of fungi. Tinea capitis is caused by by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.
The fungi that cause tinea infections do well in warm, moist areas. A tinea infection is more likely if you have:
Tinea capitis or ringworm can spread easily to others. It most often affects children and goes away at puberty. However, it can occur at any age.
Tinea infections are contagious. You can catch tinea capitis if you come into direct contact with an area of ringworm on someone else's body, or if you touch items such as combs, hats, or clothing that have been used by someone with ringworm. The infection can also be spread by pets, particularly cats.
Tinea capitis may involve only parts of the scalp, or all of it. Areas that are infected appear bald with small black dots, due to hair that has broken off.
Round, scaly areas of skin that can be red or swollen (inflamed) may be found, as well as pus-filled sores called kerions.
You may have a low-grade fever of around 100 - 101 Â°F or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
There is usually itching of the scalp.
The appearance of the scalp will make the health care provider suspect tinea capitis. A special lamp called a Wood's lamp test can help diagnose a fungal scalp infection.
The health care provider may swab the area and send it for a culture. However it may take up to 3 weeks to get these results.
Rarely, a skin biopsy of the scalp will be done.
The health care provider will prescribe a special medicine you take by mouth to treat ringworm in the scalp.
Keep the area clean. A medicated shampoo, such as one that contains ketoconazole or selenium sulfide, may slow or stop the spread of infection through the air. However, the shampoo alone cannot get rid of the ringworm.
Other family members and pets should be examined and treated, if necessary.
Once the shampoo has been started:
No one in the home should share combs, hairbrushes, hats, towels, pillowcases, or helmets with other people.
Tinea capitis may be hard to get rid of, and it may return after treatment. In many cases it gets better on its own when the person reaches puberty.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of tinea capitis. Home care remedies do not effectively treat tinea capitis.
Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:pp 491-523.
Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis and other superficial mycoses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier;2009:chap 267.