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Suffering From Scalp Ringworm (Tinea Capitis) In Summer? Know Its Treatment & Prevention

Scalp Ringworm Tinea Capitis Treatment & Prevention

Scalp ringworm is a fungal infection on the scalp which can cause itchy bald spots. It is also called Tinea capitis and this infection affects the hair shafts and scalp, causing small patches of scaly, itchy skin. Some common symptoms include focal areas of scaling and itching, loss of hair, red papules and localised pustules. 

It is a highly contagious infection which usually spreads through sharing pillows, hats, towels and combs or by person-to-person contact. Although it can infect a person of any age, it is most common in children than adults.

When the scalp ringworm appears on the face, extremities or trunk of a person, it causes a bright red ring-shaped rash. The other areas of the body that ringworm typically affects are the groin, feet, hands and toenails. Doctors can identify tinea capitis by running a fungal culture on a sample of the affected hair in the beginning, reviewing a person’s symptoms and performing a physical examination. Medicated shampoos may prevent a person-to-person spread of infection and the fungus that causes ringworm on the scalp can be killed by taking oral medication.

What is a Scalp Ringworm?

Scalp ringworm is an infection which is the result of a fungus which develops on a person’s scalp. It isn’t caused by a worm, contrary to what the name might suggest and is contagious. It usually spreads from person to person, person to animal and person to object and occurs mostly during the summer months. The scalp ringworm leads to the formation of scaly, red and round rashes that may itch. 

What are the Types of Scalp Ringworms?

Clinical features vary according to the extent of the inflammatory host response, the type of hair invasion and the species of dermatophyte. Partial hair loss with some inflammation is a common characteristic of all types.

Tinea capitis clinical features are categorised into inflammatory and non-inflammatory variants, such as:

Inflammatory Variants


It is caused by a zoophilic species and may result in permanent alopecia. A delayed immune response to the fungus results in a severe inflammatory reaction. 


T. schoenleinii causes this rare chronic inflammatory infection. It is characterised by yellow-crusted cup-shaped lesions (scutula) around the base of the hairs and matted hair.

Diffuse Pustular

It is a patchy alopecia with associated folliculitis or pustules.

Non-inflammatory variants

Black Dot

Patches of alopecia with fine scaling which appear speckled with black dots. The dots are hair shafts which are broken, secondary to endothrix infection.

Diffuse Scale

It resembles generalised dandruff; alopecia is absent or subtle.

Grey Patch

Patches of alopecia and fine scaling of the scalp, which has spores coating the affected hairs making it appear grey. 

Also Read- Suffering From Tinea Cruris Or Jock Itch: Treatment & Prevention

What are the Causes of Scalp Ringworm?

Dermatophytes are the fungi which cause ringworm on the scalp.  Fungi are organisms that thrive on dead tissue, such as the outer layers of the skin, hair, and fingernails. Dermatophytes thrive on sweaty skin as they prefer moisture and warmth. Poor hygiene and overcrowding increase the spread of ringworm.

Scalp ringworm spreads easily among children especially. The other ways of transmission are:

  • By touching the skin of someone with the infection.
  • Using the objects, bedding and combs of an infected person, increases the risk.
  • House pets like dogs and cats and farm animals like pigs, horses, cows and goats can also be carriers, although they might not show any signs of infection. 

What are the Symptoms of Scalp Ringworm?

Itchy patches on the scalp are the most common symptom of ringworm. The scalp will develop bald spots, red areas and a scaly texture as a result of sections of hair breaking off and black dots appearing where the hair breaks off. These areas can gradually spread and grow if left untreated. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Low-grade fever
  • Painful scalp
  • Brittle hair
  • Crusty swellings are called kerion in severe cases, which drain pus. These can lead to permanent scarring and bald spots.

What is the Treatment of Scalp Ringworm?

Medicated shampoo and fungi-killing oral medication are what a doctor will probably prescribe. 

Antifungal Medication

Terbinafine hydrochloride and griseofulvin are the leading antifungal medications for ringworm. Both oral medications are to be taken for approximately six weeks. Your doctor may recommend taking these medications with high-fat food such as ice cream or peanut butter. 

Medicated Shampoo

To prevent the spread of infection and to remove fungus, your doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo. The shampoo contains selenium sulfide or the active antifungal ingredient ketoconazole. 

Medicated shampoo doesn’t kill ringworm but it helps prevent the fungus from spreading. This type of treatment must be combined with an oral medication. This shampoo may be prescribed by your doctor a couple of times per week for a month. Leave the shampoo on for five minutes, then rinse your hair. 


Scalp ringworm is an infection which causes issues in the scalp which usually don’t disappear on their own. It is highly contagious and may easily spread to your friends, family, colleagues etc. So it is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced dermatologist. This is a disease that can leave a permanent emotional scar that can substantially reduce confidence levels.  

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a dermatologist, do reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Seema Oberoi Lall at the CK Birla Hospital.


Is Ringworm on the Scalp Serious?

Scalp ringworm is an infection which is not fatal, however, if left untreated can grow and spread across the scalp of a person, resulting in loss of hair in some cases.

Will the Scalp Ringworm go Away by itself?

Tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp doesn’t normally go away on its own and needs to be treated to remove the fungus and to stop the further spread of the infection.

What Kills Ringworm on the Scalp?

Oral medications which contain griseofulvin and terbinafine hydrochloride are generally prescribed by doctors for about 6 weeks to get rid of the scalp ringworm.

Can coconut oil cure scalp ringworm? 

Coconut oil is effective in treating mild cases of scalp ringworm due to its moisturising and antifungal qualities. It’s even better than prescription medications or OTC treatments as it normally has less risk of side effects. 

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