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Ringworm of the Scalp

Condition Basics

What is ringworm of the scalp?

Ringworm of the scalp is an infection that grows in the outer layer of the scalp and in the hair. The condition is caused by a fungus, not a worm.

What are the symptoms?

The condition often looks like round, bald patches. In most cases, the infection spreads outward while the inside of the circle clears up. This makes the infection look like a ring. It may also look like dandruff, patches of black dots, or small bumps that look like blisters. It can also be itchy.

How is it spread?

The fungus that causes ringworm of the scalp spreads from person to person. You can get ringworm by sharing hats, combs, brushes, towels, pillowcases, or helmets. Rarely, it can spread from a dog or cat to a person.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will look at the rash and ask you about your symptoms. Your doctor may take a sample of your hair or skin to look at under a microscope. If it's not clear what's causing your rash, your doctor may do a skin culture.

How is ringworm of the scalp treated?

The condition is treated with pills and special shampoo. They are used together to treat ringworm of the scalp. If treated, hair in the bald spots usually grows back. A follow-up exam is needed to make sure the infection has cleared.

How can you help prevent it from coming back or spreading?

  • As soon as you start treatment, replace your combs and brushes. Or you can clean them after each use with diluted household bleach. To dilute household bleach, follow the directions on the label.
  • Don't share hats, helmets, or other objects that are used for the head or hair. Ringworm-causing fungus can live on objects, people, or animals for several months.
  • Wash your hands well after caring for someone with ringworm. Adults who have contact with a child with ringworm of the scalp can become a carrier. A carrier does not have a ringworm infection but can pass it to others. Sometimes all caregivers are treated with a special shampoo.
  • Wash your clothes, towels, and bed sheets in hot, soapy water.


Current as of: November 16, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


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