My child has ringworms

What causes ring worms in children?

Dear Doctor,

What causes ring worms in children? Emma

Dear Emma,

Ringworm is a common fungal infection. Fungal spores are present in the atmosphere, in the soil, over dead skin of scalp, nails. It causes scaly, crusted rash or round ring like patches associated with intermittent itching. There may be patches of hair loss. It tends to grow in dampness. Any age can be affected, but children are more vulnerable. It can also infect animals. Humans including children can acquire the infection from animals.

Since it tends to stay and grow in dampness, dampness is a risk factor for acquiring ring worm infection. Walking barefeet on damp surfaces, as that of showers, pool side, wet lawn, e.t.c. Wearing damp clothes, damp shoes and damp socks increases risk of acquiring ring worm infection. Sharing towels, dirty contaminated bed clothes, using shared combs is also a risk factor. Handling infected animals, particularly cats and dogs, and not washing hands after that increases the risk of catching the infection. One should be wary of touching animals that seem itchy or have patchy loss of fur. Touching contaminated soil can also infect a child or even an adult.

The occurrence and severity of infection depends on volume of fungus to which one is exposed and immunity of the body. Children with reduced immunity as those with HIV/AIDS get more severe, generalised forms of ring worm infection. Those with good immunity may just get a patchy infection.