[Skip to Content]

First Aid: Ringworm

Medically reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD

First Aid

Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin seen most often on the scalp, body, feet ("athlete's foot"), or groin ("jock itch"). Ringworm isn't a worm — its name comes from how it looks, like a red ring or group of rings with clear centers.

Signs and Symptoms

On the skin:

  • starts as a red, scaly patch or bump
  • itching
  • discomfort
  • usually shaped like a circle with raised, tiny bumps around the edges (often with a scaly center)

On the scalp:

  • may start as a round, reddish, pimple-like sore
  • becomes patchy, flaky, scaly, or crusty (may first be mistaken for dandruff)
  • causes swelling, soreness, redness, bald patches (usually circular), and broken hairs

What to Do

  • Call your doctor if you think your child has signs of ringworm.
  • Follow the doctor's treatment instructions carefully. Depending on the type and site of the infection, these may include using over-the-counter or prescription cream for the skin, or prescription oral (taken by mouth) medicine for the scalp.
  • Discourage your child from picking at the infected area because this could cause another type of infection.
  • Call your doctor if the area gets redder, is swollen, or develops pus.

Think Prevention!

Prevent ringworm by encouraging your kids to:

  • not share combs, brushes, hair accessories, pillows, hats, cellphones, and headphones
  • wear flip-flops at the pool or in the locker room shower
  • wash sports clothing regularly
  • shower after contact sports
  • wash their hands well and often
Medically reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018