It’s the last thing you expect to see: Your child has an itchy red circle on her skin, and the school nurse says it is ringworm. You’ll be relieved to learn that ringworm is not caused by worms at all–it’s an infection caused by a fungus. Properly named tinea, it is called ringworm when it appears on the skin or scalp, jock itch in the pubic area and athlete’s foot on the feet. Ringworm is easily treated with over-the-counter topical products and is typically gone within two weeks of beginning treatment. The tricky part is preventing recurrence or spread of the outbreak to other family members. Standard procedures can be used to combat an outbreak of ringworm.
Insist that your children and other family members wash their hands often with soap and water. Ringworm fungus lives on dead skin cells; the most common cause of contagion is from other children. Keep in mind, however, that pets can also become infected, and hands should be washed after playing with pets as well.
Teach your children to recognize ringworm. Encourage them to avoid touching other children and animals that have rashes or red, scaly patches on their skin.
Notify your child’s school or daycare of the infection. Request that all common areas be sanitized frequently to help put an end to the outbreak.
Encourage your children to wear sandals or other footwear when they are barefoot in common areas, such as locker rooms and pool decks.
Wash sports clothing as soon as possible after use, especially if your child is playing a contact sport. Likewise, make sure he showers immediately after playing sports to deter infection from bodily contact.
Discourage sharing of clothing, towels, hair brushes and any other item that another person has used. Like head lice, ringworm can be easily passed from child to child through proximity and use of personal items.
Avoid overdressing your child in warm weather. Thick clothing that promotes sweating is an ideal skin environment for ringworm fungus to thrive.
Clean common areas, such as doorknobs, faucet handles and bathrooms, frequently to prevent contagion. Wash bedding daily until the infection has cleared up. Remember to clean items that are often in proximity to your child, such as throw pillows, toys and stuffed animals.
- If ringworm does not clear up within four weeks of topical treatment, the Mayo Clinic recommends you visit your health care provider because an oral course of medication may be needed.
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