Ringworm can show up anywhere on the skin from the torso, hands, foot, and groin to the scalp. That unpleasant and irritating itching on your scalp might be a highly contagious fungal infection known as ringworm of the scalp.
There are a variety of fungal species that can cause ringworm, the most common being Trichophyton and Microsporum. Ringworm can manifest as itchy rashes, lesions, and flaky skin. Ringworm of the scalp, known as tinea capitis, can result in brittle, broken hair and bald patches at the site of the fungal colony.
Ringworm of the scalp is predominant in toddlers and young school-going children.
About 10%-20% of the population is likely to get affected with this disease within their lifespan.
What Causes Ringworm of the Scalp?
Ringworm is caused by a dermatophyte fungus. The majority of the fungi that inhabit and infect the human scalp are Trichophyton and Microsporum classified according to the route of transmission.
Tinea capitis is commonly caused by T. tonsurans and M. canis. The former is transmitted through human contact, and the latter is transmitted from an animal, such as a dog and a cat, to a human.
The infection can be transmitted either through:
- Direct contact: This is the direct transmission of fungal spores from an infected person or an infected animal such as a cat, dog, goat, horse, cow, and a pig.
- Indirect contact: This is also known as fomite transmission, wherein the fungal spores are transmitted through a channel of contaminated objects such as bedding, pillow, towel, hairbrush, and head coverings such as a scarf, hat, and cap.
Symptoms Associated with Ringworm of the Scalp
Tinea capitis starts damaging your hair and the outer layer of your scalp as soon as the fungal colony inhabits the scalp. Ringworm of the scalp presents itself on the scalp as:
- Scaly lesions
- Mild to severe itching
- Frizzy hair with a tendency to break when pulled out
- Round patches marked by hair loss moving towards an increased size
- Dotted appearance like that of a stubble due to broken hair shafts
How is Ringworm of the Scalp Diagnosed?
A visual examination of the scalp is enough for the doctor to get an idea of your condition. Sometimes, to get a wider picture, your doctor may use a Wood’s lamp to illuminate your scalp to check for signs of infection.
To confirm the presence of the fungi, a scalp or hair sample might be taken. Although this can be a time-taking procedure, this will help confirm the diagnosis.
Standard Treatments for Ringworm of the Scalp
Because antifungal creams have poor penetration in the scalp, ringworm of the scalp must be treated with oral medications and antifungal shampoos.
Shampoos containing 2.5% zinc sulfide or zinc pyrithione or 1%-2.5% selenium sulfide can be prescribed to alleviate the itching, irritation, and spread of the fungus.
Standard treatments include a 6-8 week course of prescribed medication or until the ringworm is cured. Although the scalp can heal with timely treatment, it can take 6-12 months for the hair to regrow on the bald spots.
Treating Ringworm of the Scalp at Home
The prevalence and contagious nature of ringworm of the scalp make prevention an unlikely prospect. However, you can put to use some natural remedies to treat your infection and get relief from the incessant itching and irritation in your scalp.
Delineated below are some natural strategies to combat ringworm in the scalp.
1. Dab Tea Tree Oil
Documented since ages for its excellent antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil can help fight fungal infections of the scalp. Tea tree oil can also provide instant relief from inflammation and itching.
- Dilute 3-4 drops of tea tree oil by adding it in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Soak a cotton ball in this oil mixture and dab it on the affected area. Keep it on for 30 minutes. Wash your hair thereafter. Do this once a day.
- Alternatively, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo. Wash your hair 3-4 times a week.
2. Apply Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is used topically as a broad-spectrum antibiotic and antifungal agent. It is known to kill fungal cells by penetrating deep down and denaturing the enzymes responsible for the survival of the fungal cells.
A major plus is its immediate action and nontoxic nature.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Dermatology and Cosmetic highlighted the effectiveness of topical colloidal silver as topical clotrimazole. Researchers found its use safe and effective in patients with tinea capitis and tinea corporis. However, further studies with larger sample sizes are recommended.
- For topical use, pour colloidal silver liquid or gel into a spray bottle and spray it on the affected areas. Allow it to air-dry. Do this two to three times daily
3. Mask it Up with Garlic Paste
Aside from its antifungal properties, garlic can provide quick relief from inflammation and itching.
- Blend 4 or 5 fresh garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil until you achieve a smooth paste. Apply this paste on your scalp. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse it off thoroughly. Repeat this twice daily.
- Include garlic in your cooking practices.
4. Give a Turmeric Treatment
Turmeric is replete with curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compound. By way of its therapeutic properties, turmeric can fight fungal infections and help relieve the symptoms.
An added plus is the boost in the immunity levels that turmeric offers.
- Mix a ½ teaspoon of turmeric with enough coconut or olive oil to form a paste. Apply this mix on the affected area. Wash your hair after 1-2 hours. Do this until the infection is gone.
- Alternatively, you can add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to 1 glass of warm milk. Drink this milk twice daily.
5. Fight the Fungus with Oregano Oil
- Dilute 4-5 drops of oregano essential oil by adding it in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil such as olive oil and coconut oil. Apply it on the affected area. Wait for a few hours. Rinse it off with lukewarm water and thoroughly pat the area dry. Do this two to three times a day.
6. Get Relief from Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has soothing, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. It can help fight ringworm of the scalp by its antifungal nature, and it can lessen the associated symptoms of itchiness, inflammation, and discomfort.
- Cut open a leaf from an aloe vera plant. Scoop out the gel and apply it directly on the affected areas of the scalp. Wash it off with warm water after 30 minutes. Repeat this twice a day.
- Alternatively, mix a ½ cup of aloe vera gel and the juice of half a lemon. Apply it on the affected area. Let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Do this once a day for 1 week.
7. Condition with Apple Cider Vinegar
The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the reason behind its antifungal properties. Its abundant antioxidant content can speed up the healing process and relax the itching and inflammation.
- For topical application, fill a spray bottle with equal amounts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water. Generously spray the solution on the affected areas of your scalp. Let it dry. Do this twice daily.
- You can orally consume ACV to help heal the infection from within. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of lukewarm water and drink this solution one to two times a day.
How to Prevent Ringworm of the Scalp?
Awareness is of paramount importance when it comes to communicable diseases. You can curtail the chances of an impending fungal infection by following simple steps to avoid a fungal attack on your scalp:
- Prompt action is the key. Even the slightest intuition of ringworm infection in the scalp should be addressed.
- Follow good hygiene practices. Keep your hair and scalp clean. Wash them often.
- Keep your hair and scalp dry to avoid any moisture retention that may attract infection.
- If you notice bald patches on your pet’s skin, quarantine your pets and visit your veterinarian.
- Regularly wash the clothing and bedding of an infected person with hot water and a disinfectant.
- Do not share personal items such as hairbrush, comb, hats, and clothes, which can house fungal spores and infect you later on.
- Avoid scratching your head. This can spread the infection.
- Eat a healthy wholesome diet to keep your immunity levels at an optimum. This will enable you to resist infection and fight microbial invasions.
Who is at Risk?
Ringworm of the scalp is more likely to be contracted by:
- Toddlers or young school-going children where close physical contact can spread the infection easily
- Congested living conditions where fungal species thrive well
- Petting an infected animal who might not show visible signs of an infection
- Minor injuries of the scalp that are not addressed properly
- Poor hygiene, including not washing the hair often, which causes a buildup of pollutants, sweat, and dirt that can be a breeding ground for the fungus
- Sweating in the scalp
- Keeping the hair damp for long periods
Complications Related to Ringworm of the Scalp
A perpetual case of ringworm can riddle you with severely painful inflammation of the scalp known as kerion.
Kerion looks like a soft, elevated swollen area on the scalp that oozes out pus. This draining of the pus causes the formation of thick, yellow-colored flaking on the scalp. This is also accompanied by vigorous hair fall.
Ringworm of the scalp can result in itchy and flaky lesions on the scalp accompanied by bald patches. With a high prevalence rate among prepubescent children aged 3-7, ringworm of the scalp can cause them major discomfort due to its infective nature.
Appropriate medical treatment of antifungal oral medications and antifungal shampoos can heal ringworm of the scalp. Along with the standard therapy, following certain preventive measures and home remedies can help accelerate the healing process and restore the health of your scalp.
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