How do you treat ringworm of the scalp?

Treating Ringworm of the Scalp
Ahhhh, the relief.
Ahhhh, the relief.
Photodisc/Getty Images

Relax, relax. Because of its common prevalence and fungus source, treating ringworm of the scalp is a fairly straightforward and easy affair.

A physician will pluck a few hairs from the scalp for examination under a microscope. This test should determine if the infection is ringworm. Often, the symptoms are so obvious that the doctor need only inspect the site to make a ringworm diagnosis.

Once it's determined that ringworm is the culprit, the physician will prescribe an antifungal medication. Most commonly, antifungals are prescribed in pill form. By introducing the medicine into the bloodstream, it can be carried to the source of the infection. Topical antifungal creams, by contrast, don't penetrate the barrier provided by the skin enough to make it to the site of infection. The medication prescribed may last for several weeks, and you should make sure the prescription is taken in full -- even if the symptoms disappear beforehand [source: Mayo Clinic].

In the meantime, your doctor may recommend an antifungal shampoo to combat the infection as it presents on the scalp. Some major shampoo brands like Selsun and Head and Shoulders make antifungal shampoos that work well on ringworm infections. Using antifungal shampoos can treat the infection enough so that the patient can make his or her way back to school (or work) [source: University of Michigan].

It's a good idea to get rid of any personal items like brushes or combs that have come in contact with the infected area. Ringworm is often transmitted from an object to a person.

As for the hair that's been lost, the bald patches should grow back within six to 12 months of the beginning of treatment. If a kerion -- those pus-filled lesions -- develops, it can cause scarring and permanent hair loss, however. As they say, the best defense is a good offense: Keep an eye on your child for early signs of ringworm of the scalp, make sure they learn to wash their hands regularly at an early age and act quickly when symptoms appear. These measures can help prevent a troublesome bout of ringworm infection not just for your child, but for his or her entire school. Of course, they won't feel self-conscious about it until many years after the fact.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Medline Plus. "Tinea capitis." October 3, 2008.
  • The Mayo Clinic. "Ringworm (scalp)." January 30, 2009.
  • The New York Times. "Ringworm." May 1, 2007.
  • University of Michigan Health System. "Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis)." June 9, 2008.
  • WebMD. "Ringworm of the scalp or beard - topic overview." April 24, 2007.