In the previous articles, we have discussed common skin conditions such as dryness or itchiness on the scalp. Although these conditions can be annoying, certain diseases can be extremely painful and troublesome; one such infection is Scalp Ringworm.
Let’s face it as much as we are scared of conditions that cause pain we equally dread the ones that affect our appearance, and unfortunately, the ringworm is a combination of both making it even worse!
What is Scalp Ringworm?
You hear the name and freak out; is there an insect inside my scalp? Well, that isn’t the case. This skin disorder clinically termed as Tinea capitis is an infection caused by one of the varieties of fungi dermatophytes. It is a common skin disorder among school-going children around the world and is highly contagious. It is termed scalp ringworm as the fungus makes ring-like patterns on the scalp and causes red itchy patches.
The bacteria infect dead tissues on your skin, hair, and nails superficially and therefore can become quite painful if left untreated. It is also contagious which means it may spread among members of the family if one of them becomes infected. Let’s look at a few causes behind the spreading of the infection
What Causes Ringworm?
We have already established the fact that scalp ringworm is caused due to a type of scalp fungus. However what is crucial is to understand what factors enable the bacteria to thrive and spread around. These factors include:
Lack of Hygiene:
People who maintain poor hygiene are at a higher risk of developing ringworm since the fungi thrive on warm and moist skin such as one that remains sweaty. It is essential to keep the scalp clean and dry to prevent this skin condition. Never leave skin injuries such as rashes unattended as that may also make your scalp susceptible to the infection.
Sharing Equipment with an Infected Person:
Dermatophytes are spores that are quite resilient and can survive on the skin for a substantial amount of time- a few months to be precise. Similarly, they can also live on objects such as towels, comb, sports gear, etc. Therefore people who have been affected by the disorder can deposit spores on the objects they touch and use; sharing any such equipment with an infected person will put you at risk of developing ringworm.
Athletes, for instance, may develop scalp ringworm by sharing sports gear such as helmets, towels, and shin guards or due to direct contact such as in wrestling. The area around pools, shower stalls that are open to public, locker rooms are all places that can be home to the fungus so anyone using such sites must take preventive measures to ensure protection from the skin condition.
Touching the Scalp of an Infected Person or Animal:
Apart from sharing objects, you can also develop the skin condition by touching the skin of an infected human being or animal.
Playing with Pets:
Animals such as cats particularly kittens and dogs can be carriers of the disease so petting or grooming these animals can increase your risk of contracting the disease. Symptoms of the disorder in animals include scaly or patchy fur along with similar circular patterns as in the case of humans, but the signs may not always be evident.
Other animals such as guinea pigs, cows and lambs can also cause an infection so if you suspect your pet is infected immediately get it treated by the veterinarian and consult the dermatologist yourself.
Our immune system is responsible for guarding the body against diseases so factors such as low immunity, poor blood circulation allergies or dermatitis may increase your susceptibility to the condition.
Other factors that may become a cause of the infection include a warm and humid climate, wearing tight clothing, hyperhidrosis- a condition where the individual tends to sweat more than usual and playing contact sports such as wrestling.
Scalp Ringworm Symptoms?
With conditions such as ringworm, particularly those that are contagious it is imperative to identify and treat the disease before it aggravates. If not treated on time, ringworm can lead to a variety of health issues including hair loss, bacterial infections and may transfer from one part of the body to another. But before we move on to look at the treatment options lets first have a look at the symptoms of the disease, so you know how to catch it.
With ringworm, the symptoms usually appear about 4 to 14 days after the skin is infected with the fungi. The most common signs of ringworm are scaly patches that appear on the scalp and cause itchiness. These patches are circular in pattern and can be tender, painful and inflamed. You may also notice hair breaking off at or just above the scalp resulting in red areas and bald spots on the scalp with crusting and scaling. Large inflamed sores may also be formed on the scalp; these can be painful and ooze pus. Black spots also appear on the points where the hair breaks off.
Other uncommon symptoms include high fever and the swelling of lymph nodes in the neck region.
Stages of Scalp Ringworm:
In the initial stages, ringworm appears in the form of spots or red skin patches; these may be moist but in most cases appear dry and scaly with itchiness. Gradually the rash increases in size with the hair breaking off at the center of the patches. These will take the shape of circular rings with raised borders. Scratching may result in breaking the skin causing a bacterial infection.
However, even with knowing all the symptoms you may still not be able to identify the disease as many other skin disorders have similar symptoms. You may confuse it with alopecia areata, so it is best to consult a dermatologist if you feel itchiness with flaky skin and reddened bald patches; they will be able to diagnose the condition and suggest the necessary treatment.
Treatments for Scalp Ringworm:
To diagnose the condition, your dermatologist will inquire about your symptoms and examine the scalp. They may also take a scraping of your scalp skin for a fungi culture. The typical course of treatment for scalp ringworm includes anti-fungal medicines and a medicated shampoo. Various over-the-counter medications are available in the form of lotions, gels, powders, etc. that can help cure the condition.
The common marketed medications include griseofulvin and terbinafine hydrochloride (Lamisil). These are effective but do have certain side-effects that you need to be aware of. Your doctor will prescribe you the medicines for consumption over a specific period- approximately up to 6 weeks.
The common side-effects include:
- Diarrhea (You may be advised to consume the medicines with foods containing high-fat content)
- Sun sensitivity
- Certain allergic reactions
- Loss of taste
- And in rare cases, they may also cause liver problems
Medicated shampoos that contain ketoconazole are prescribed alongside the oral medicines as these have antifungal properties and can prevent the infection from spreading. You must remember that these shampoos don’t cure ringworm so they should always be taken with the medications and not used separately.
The dosage of medication also varies from person to person and depends on the formulation and strength of the medicine. Here I would like to state the fact that recovery with ringworm requires patience and persistence since it can take up to a month to see results. The biggest mistake during this time would be giving up on medications. Make sure you follow the proper course of treatment and maintain hygiene to prevent the infection from spreading. You may feel itchiness and scratching can make things worse; to help with it you can apply a wet washcloth (dipped in cold water) for 30 minutes anywhere between two to six times a day.
The infection may recur and can be a bit difficult to get rid of, but with correct treatment and preventive measures, you will be able to protect yourself and your family against the resilient fungi.
Home Remedies to Treat Scalp Ringworm:
The infection does respond well to some remedies, some of these are useful for preventing ringworm from spreading further or recurring once it is cured. With at-home treatments, the benefit is that there are no side-effects. However, for skin conditions like these, I would recommend consulting the doctor before trying out any remedies.
Here is a list of some effective solutions that I had tried and tested myself when my daughter developed ringworm. Hopefully, these will give positive results and help you out.
- I can’t stress enough about how crucial it is to maintain cleanliness. Not only to keep the affected area on your scalp under control but also to prevent the condition from returning once it cures. For this purpose, you can use antibacterial soap and water. Use it before the application of any topical medicines or trying out any other remedies and be sure to dry the scalp completely each time after washing.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar:
- An antifungal agent such as Apple Cider vinegar can be applied topically to the area to help fight the fungi. Apply undiluted ACV using cotton swabs (make sure they are saturated but not dripping) on your scalp. You may repeat it three times a day. But since your skin may be sensitive, it is best to start slow.
Essential Oils to the Rescue:
- Several essential oils work well for treating ringworm. One of the most beneficial ones for your hair and scalp is tea tree oil. However, before trying out any of these, I would suggest doing a patch test on a dime-sized area and see how your skin reacts to it.
- Since tea tree oil has antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties, it can aid in treating ringworm. Just combine few drops (not more than that) of tea tree to a carrier oil with antifungal properties such as coconut oil and apply it over the affected area. Other essential oils that are beneficial for fighting ringworm include Oregano oil and Myrrh essential oil. The former is strong so use only 1 or 2 drops of it and always these in a carrier oil. First while for the latter you may apply it directly or in a similar method as that for tea tree oil.
- Another ingredient that we all have in our kitchens is turmeric which has long been known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also an antifungal agent and can aid in inhibiting growth. You can have it in the form of turmeric water or tea. Another technique is to make a paste using freshly-ground turmeric mixed with a small amount of water and apply it to the affected patches leaving it on till it dries.
- Aloe vera is used to treat bacterial and fungal infections and can help soothe the itchiness and inflammation. You can directly apply aloe vera gel over the infected part of your scalp. Or use any ointment recommended by your dermatologist to help with the discomfort.
Grapefruit Seed Extract:
- Grapefruit seed extract which does come from the seed of the fruit can be used to treat infections such as ringworm. Mix one drop of the extract with a tablespoon of water and apply it to the patches over the scalp.
- Licorice is one of the herbs that is an excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent and can work effectively for skin conditions such as scalp ringworm. You need to take three tablespoons of powdered licorice root into a cup of water and allow it to boil. Afterward, let it simmer for 10 minutes. Cool down the mixture and apply it to the affected portion of the scalp wiping or rinsing it off after 10 minutes.
- And how can we forget the beneficial coconut oil, with antifungal and antimicrobial characteristics? It makes for an effective topical remedy to fight against infections caused due to various types of fungi. Such as ringworm and candida. To apply it, warm the oil and use it over the affected area directly, you will notice the oil absorbing into the skin.
With all these remedies, medicines and preventive steps you will be able to get rid of the disease forever. All it requires is patience and the effort to maintain hygiene and you will have your healthy, shiny hair back.