Ringworm (tinea) has a scary name, but rest assured that there is no “worm” affecting your baby’s skin. Instead, your infant has a fungal infection. Ringworm manifests itself as raised lesions on the skin. These red, itchy marks are often ring-shaped. Although highly contagious, ringworm is easily treatable and is not a serious health risk to your baby, according to MedlinePlus.
Ringworm has different names, depending on where it is found on the body. In babies, it is often found on the scalp and may be confused for cradle cap, which is much more common. Ringworm on the scalp is tinea capitis. When it is found on the body, it is tinea corporis. Ringworm on the face is tinea faciale. Ringworm on the foot is tinea pedis and is more commonly known as athlete’s foot.
Ringworm is caused by fungi which are a member of a group called dermatophytes. Different fungi from this group affect different parts of the body. For example, the fungus that affects the face is Trichophyton. The fungi that cause ringworm of the body and face are found on both animals and humans. They are also found living in the soil. The fungi that cause ringworm of the scalp are found only in animals and humans. Ringworm that appears on the feet is from a fungus that is found only in humans.
Ringworm can be spread through direct or indirect contact, according to the Directors of Health Promotion and Education website. This means that babies can get ringworm simply by touching a person who has it, or by touching an object that contains spores from the fungus. Sometimes, they can get it from touching infected soil.
Ringworm varies in appearance, but it is usually a slightly red, itchy area that looks much like a rash. The rash may have a raised border that looks like a ring or a “worm” under the skin. Scratching the lesion can make it become larger and more inflamed. If the fungus is located on the scalp, it can cause temporary hair loss in the affected area. Often, there is more than one lesion on the body.
The fungi that cause ringworm are easily killed with topical antifungal creams. Oral medications can also kill the fungi. Babies are usually treated with a cream that is applied liberally to the lesion twice a day. The cream should be used until the ringworm is gone, which usually takes between three and four weeks, according to BabyCenter.