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Tinea Capitis

What is Tinea Capitis? (Ringworm of Scalp)

Tinea Capitis is a type of fungal infection that affects the scalp and frequently leads to bald spots in the affected areas. This highly contagious infection causes an itchy, scaly patches. This generally affects children under the age of 10 and is more common in boys than girls.

What is the cause of Tinea Capitis?

The cause of Tinea Capitis is becoming infected with the fungal organism based upon contact with a person or animal that has it or from contaminated soil.

What are the symptoms?

Tinea capitis presents itself in many ways on the scalp including itching and flaking of the scalp with areas that resemble dandruff, pimple like pustules, circular patches of hair loss with black dots, or matted hair with yellow crusts. Occasionally large inflamed nodules similar to a boil or abscess called a “kerion reaction” develop in association with tinea capitis.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor, usually a dermatologist, will examine the scalp and collect a skin scraping to check for the presence of fungal organisms.

What tests are needed?

A potassium hydroxide (KOH) slide is a quick test that can be done  from the scarping on the scalp to quickly check for the presence of a fungus

In some cases, the specimen might be submitted to a lab for fungal culture evaluation which can take several weeks to get the results

Ultraviolet light examination of the scalp can reveal the presence of tinea capitis in some cases.

A skin biopsy is usually not necessary to diagnose tinea capitis.

What is the expected duration?

Treatment of this infection usually requires 4-6 weeks of oral antifungal medication. The infected hair frequently is lost during treatment and grows back over a two to four month period.

How can it be prevented?

Any child that has ringworm of the scalp is potentially contagious needs to be isolated from other children until treatment is rendered. Various school districts have their own policies about school attendance for kids with tinea capitis. In Houston, kids can usually return to school once appropriate treatment has been started.


Medicated shampoos, oral and topical antifungal medications are usually used. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics might be prescribed as well.

When to contact a professional

Contact a physician or dermatologist at the first sign of persistent dryness and flakiness of the scalp in children between the ages of two and nine; this is the most common age group that develops tinea capitis. However, adults who care for kids and comb or brush the child’s hair can become infected as well.  If a relative, classmate or friend is known to be infected, it’s probably a good idea to seek medical care as well.


There can be significant improvement shown in the first 2 months. Hair regrowth usually occurs unless there is severe inflammation and secondary scarring which is rare.

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