Ringworm is a fungal infection that is highly infectious. The name comes from the shape of the infection which starts out as a ring few millimetres in size and grows to several centimetres. It is a common infection and easy to treat.
It can affect the skin of the baby on the body and the scalp. If the infection is found on the torso it is called tinea corporis. Ringworm infection on the scalp is known as tinea capitis. The infection can be passed on from pets, other people or even by playing in the soil.
Symptoms of Ringworm in Babies
The fungal infection starts out as a red ring on the skin. It develops a raised edge. The raised ring initially has clear skin in the center, but as the ring develops scales the inner smooth skin also changes to a red colour. The crusty and raised rings can itch and the infection spreads to different areas on the body. It is a highly contagious skin condition.
Cause of Ringworm
Fungi named dermatophytes are responsible for the skin infection called ringworm. It can be transferred to babies from dogs, cats, guinea pigs and other common family pets. If a person has been infected by Ringworm infection their clothes, bed linen, towels and other contaminated items can help in transmitting the infection.
If the baby is allowed to dig around in mud, the ringworm fungi can be transmitted from the soil to the baby. If the ringworm infection develops on the scalp, in some cases the child will experience hair loss .
Diagnosing the Skin Infection
T he doctor may take some scrapings from the area of the infection and send it to the pathology lab to confirm ringworm. Once rings are well-developed on the skin, a laboratory test is not necessary. . The rash may be painful to the touch, and t here may be more than one ring on the skin .
Treating Ringworm Infection in Babies
If the infection is not very severe, an antifungal cream can work well to clear it up . The cream should be applied to the ringworm rash at least twice a day for about a week. It is recommended to continue applying the cream to the rash area even after it clears up for another week to ten days to ensure that the infection is completely cured.
If the antifungal cream does not heal the rashes even after a week, or if the scalp is affected, the doctor may recommend antifungal oral medication. Oral medication is recommended particularly if the baby is losing patches of hair due to the infection. Ensure that the treatment begins as soon as possible as the rash will not clear up on it s own.
To help the rash heal and prevent further infection, bathe the baby regularly. The skin folds should be dried to avoid retention of moisture. Dress her in loose fitting clothes made from natural fibres like cotton. Keep aby’s fingernails trimmed. This prevents scratching and spreading of infection to other parts of the body. Scratching may also cause scarring, and breaking the skin can result in a secondary infection of a bacterial nature.
Take Precautions to Avoid the Spread of Ringworm
Since the child may be infectious even before the actual rash appears, ringworm is very contagious. Although it is easy to cure, prevention is always a better idea. Here are some precautions that will help prevent the transmission of the skin infection.
- Wash hands after contact with the baby using warm water and soap .
- The fungal infection spreads faster in moisture laden areas. Ensure that her body is dried off properly to help prevent the fungal growth.
- Items of personal use for an infected baby like brushes, clothes, bed linen, and hand towels should not be used by anyone else. They should also be washed and disinfected regularly while the baby recovers from the skin infection.
- Pets that may be infected should be taken to the vet and treated so that they do not pass on the ringworm infection to other members of the family.
- Good hygiene habits help prevent the spread of the infectious disease. Try and maintain a high hygiene standard for all family members where the baby has contracted ringworm, to ensure it does not spread.
Reviewed by Catherine Shaffer, M.Sc.
- Babycenter, Ringworm, http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a548378/ringworm
- The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/ringworm/
- Raisingchildren.net.au, Ringworm, http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/ringworm.html