Fungal Scalp Infection

fungal scalp infection

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection.  Most cases of scalp ringworm are caught from person to person via touching, sharing towels, etc. Fungi and their spores can remain alive on combs, brushes, unwashed towels, furniture and sheets for long periods.

Scalp ringworm mainly affects young children. It is uncommon in adults. This is thought to be because the normal skin oil (sebum) that increases on the scalp after puberty (in the teenage years) has properties that make it resistant to fungi.

What are the symptoms of scalp ringworm?

Commonly, the infection just looks like severe dandruff on various places on the scalp. This may be mistaken for psoriasis. Some infections cause patches of hair loss (bald patches) to develop. In some cases, several painful pustules (boils) develop on the scalp. A more severe infection develops in a small number of cases. This causes a large 'boggy' swelling in a section of the scalp, called a kerion.

How is scalp ringworm diagnosed?

Sometimes the symptoms strongly suggest a fungal infection. To confirm the diagnosis, a doctor will usually send a hair sample or a scraping of affected skin to the laboratory. This is looked at under the microscope and cultured to confirm that a fungal infection is the cause of the problem.

General advice if you are diagnosed with scalp ringworm

  • Where possible, you should throw out or disinfect (with bleach) objects that may be contaminated with fungal spores.
  • You should not share towels. Wash used towels frequently.
  • It is not necessary to keep children off school.
  • If a pet is suspected of being the source of the fungal infection, then seek advice from a vet for treatment.

What is the treatment for scalp ringworm?

Antifungal medicines

Griseofulvin has been the first choice of treatment for scalp ringworm for many years. An 8- to 12-week course of griseofulvin is usually needed.

Terbinafine is another option which is being increasingly used instead of griseofulvin. A four-week course is usually needed. It is important to finish the course to clear the fungus completely from the scalp.

Antifungal creams and shampoos

Antifungal creams or shampoos do not clear the infection fully. This is because fungi get into the hair shafts where creams and shampoos cannot reach. Therefore, they cannot cure the condition. However, they do clear fungi and fungal spores from the hairs and surface of the scalp.

An antifungal shampoo or cream may be advised twice-weekly for a couple of weeks in addition to antifungal medication - for example, selenium shampoo, ketoconazole shampoo or terbinafine cream.

Are there any possible complications?

If the infection is not treated and becomes severe, there is a risk of some permanent scarring and bald patches remaining on the scalp even after treatment. Also, sometimes the inflammation caused by a fungal infection can lead on to a 'secondary' bacterial skin infection. If this occurs then you may need a course of antibiotics.

Alphabetical Index of Health Topics

If you already know your diagnosis, you may search for the health topic alphabetically here. Hold your cursor over the health topics link in the line below.

Write A Comment


Topic of the Month

Womb Transplant


The new game changer in infertility. Know more about this revolutionary technique.

Continue Reading »

Health Video of the Month

Womb Transplant

Disclaimer: This health video may contain graphic material and viewer discretion is advised.