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Ringworm is a fungal infection common in children that presents as a rash of ring shapes on the chest, back, stomach, thighs or scalp.

Ringworm on the scalp can often be confused with cradle cap as it has a similar appearance. The ring-shaped rashes that appear on the body in ringworm are usually crusty on the outside and smoother in the middle. It can be quite itchy but not usually painful. The fungus responsible for ringworm is the same one that causes athlete's foot.

Ringworm is contagious and the infection usually enters through open skin (from a cut/eczema etc). It can be spread by infected people, animals, contaminated soil or sheets, clothes or toys that have been in contact with the fungus. Sharing a hairbrush can pass scalp ringworm from one person to another and other potential risky areas are swimming pools and communal showers.

Ringworm can be treated with an antifungal cream that can be bought over-the-counter. Ask the pharmacist for advice when purchasing antifungal cream. You should choose one with one or two per cent clotrimazole or miconazole. Before applying the cream properly test a little bit on a small portion of your baby's skin to make sure it's suitable to use. If your baby's skin reacts to the cream, go to the doctor who can offer an alternative cream.

Once you have a suitable cream for your child, rub it over and around the infected area twice a day. Carry on using the cream for at least a week after the rash has cleared. After applying the cream make sure you wash your hands to avoid spreading the infection.

Scalp ringwork can be trickier to treat with cream but you can get medicated shampoos and antifungal tablets so see your doctor for advice.

The infection should clear within about four weeks. If it persists you should take your child to the doctor.

Tips to Avoid Spreading Infection

Bullet Thoroughly wash your hands after applying cream to a child infected with ringworm
Bullet Keep your infected baby's towels, sheets and toys separate to others and wash them regularly
Bullet Dress your baby in loose fitting clothes
Bullet Keep your baby's fingernails cut short so they don't scratch and aggrevate the infection
Bullet If your pet has crusty patches of skin you should take it to the vet as this is a sign of ringworm
Bullet Throw away any hairbrushes you think may be infected
Bullet Treat all family members with antifungal shampoo if your baby has scalp ringworm

Ringworm is usually harmless but in some cases it can lead to a secondary infection, which you made need antibiotics to treat.

September 2012

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