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Baby Health A-Z: Ringworm

Baby Health A-Z: Ringworm

A silvery rash could indicate this common childhood complaint.

What is it?

It’s a fungal skin infection medically known as Tinea – the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. It’s not dangerous and has nothing to do with worms – it gets its name because the rash it produces is round or ring-like. Your baby will have contracted the infection from another infected person, an animal carrying it or from infected soil via a small cut, graze or patch of eczema.

What are the symptoms?

You’ll notice red or silver ring-shaped rashes that are bumpy and crusty round the edges and smooth in the middle on your baby’s chest, back, tummy or thighs. They’ll start small – just millimetres - but can spread to several centimetres as the fungus grows. It can appear on the hands and face and if it’s on the scalp it can be mistaken for dandruff, cradle cap or small bald patches. In the scalp it can be dry and crusty or moist and pus-filled.

What can you do?

Ringworm can be itchy so dress your child in loose clothing made from natural fibres. Keep their fingernails short to prevent them scratching the skin or spreading the infection. Wash the infected area daily and dry carefully. Wash towels, bedding and hairbrushes and don’t share them until the infection has gone – it’s highly contagious. A pharmacist can prescribe an over-the-counter anti-fungal treatment that should clear ringworm up in 4 weeks. An infection in the scalp may require a visit to the GP as it’s harder to treat.

When to see your GP?

If the infection on their body or face doesn’t clear up with an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream see your GP. Similarly if the cream is causing another rash it may not suit your baby’s skin and a GP can prescribe something different. If the ringworm is on your baby’s scalp they may need anti-fungal oral medication and a medicated shampoo to treat it and your doctor will be able to prescribe those. 

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