Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Font Size

Ringworm: There's a Fungus Among Us

WebMD Health News

April 17, 2001 -- Does your child seem to have dandruff? That's not a common condition in kids -- but ringworm of the scalp is, and it can look just like dandruff. This fungal infection is on the rise in the U.S. and requires treatment, so if your child has a flaking, scaling scalp, it's time for a visit to the doctor to prevent potential long-term problems.

"Tinea capitis, also known as ringworm of the scalp, is a common childhood infection ... caused by [a fungus] called T. tonsurans," expert Boni E. Elewski, MD, tells WebMD.

"In [big cities in] the northern U.S. and Canada ... I'm guessing that 15% of children between 5 and 10 have this infection," says Elewski, professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB). "I'm betting that in the Southern U.S., based on data, it's even more common. I wouldn't be surprised if in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, we may go to 25% of children in that young age group."

Black children, especially boys, are especially prone to contract ringworm of the scalp. However, the condition does occur in adults and in children of all races, and identifying it can be tricky.

"We see a ton of it in our office," says David Fleece, MD, a pediatrician working in a clinic at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "It is not always easy to diagnose based on the way it looks because it has many various appearances. Sometimes it's obvious and you have a circular patch of inflamed scalp and hair loss. But it can present as pimples or just a little flakiness [on the scalp]."

Patches of baldness and a scaly scalp are also common signs.

Even doctors have trouble identifying the disease and often confuse it for a bacterial infection of the hair follicles and treat it with antibiotics, Fleece says. This doesn't help because antibiotics only attack bacteria, not fungi.

To further complicate matters, Elewski says, a child may carry the disease for years before developing symptoms. It's always contagious, however, so during that time the child may pass it on to dozens of other kids.

Today on WebMD

Pictures and symptoms of the red, scaly rash.
woman with dyed dark hair
What it says about your health.
woman with cleaning products
Top causes of the itch that rashes.
atopic dermatitus
Identify and treat common skin problems.
itchy skin
shingles rash on skin
woman with skin tag
Woman washing face
woman washing her hair in sink
close up of womans bare neck
woman with face cream