The scalp ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin. It has the medical name of Tinea capitis but is also known as ringworm of the hair, herpes tonsurans, tinea tonsurans or the ringworm of the scalp. The fungi responsible for the disease are usually dermatophytes from the Trichophyton and Microsporum genera that attack the shaft of the hair.
This condition most commonly affects children and is triggered by a fungal infestation. It can be treated by taking special antifungal pills every day for a few weeks. There are also antifungal shampoos available but these can't defeat the infestation on their own and must be used in combination with the pills.
There are several types of fungus that can cause the scalp ringworm, these often depend on the location. In the USA, Central America and some Western European countries, the most likely culprit is the Trichophyton variety. Microsporum is usually causing the diseases in Southern areas of the Americas and Europe, but also in the Middle East, Africa or Central Europe. The fungus can be transmitted easily, not only between humans but also on various objects or through animals. It is also possible to carry a fungus on the scalp, without any symptoms, but still transmit the disease to others.
This disease rarely affects adults and is usually encountered on kids before the age of puberty. For some reason, boys seem to be more vulnerable than girls. The main symptom is hair loss in one or more areas of the scalp, sometimes with black dots and zones of cracked hair. More severe symptoms can be itching, inflammation or pustules on the scalp.
The scalp ringworm mainly develops on kids from 3 to 7 years old. Adults are not immune to the disease but such cases are not common. Several types of fungi can cause the disease. It is transmitted by a number of animals, most often kittens but also adult cats, horses, pigs, dogs or cows. In the USA, the most often root of the disease is T. tonsurans, which can have no effects on some people and is spread between humans.
Tinea capitis can be transmitted in multiple ways but it usually happens between two persons by direct touch or through various shared objects.
Fungi are extremely resilient life forms. They can survive in active or spore form for a very long time on common objects like dirty towels, sheets, combs, brushes or furniture items. There are also people who carry the fungi without being infected or having any kind of symptom themselves. These carriers can still transmit the infection to other people who are not immune to it. In some cases, the disease can spread rapidly in a group and affect several people at the same time, for example in a family or a school.
A common infection source are animals, in particular the ones on a farm. Children can take the fungus from infections of the skin of pets like cats or dogs. In such a situation, contact a vet and treat the animal as well. Since the fungus can survive on objects, the disease can be taken by simple contact with a gate or another item touched by an infected animal.
However, the scalp ringworm can also emerge without any obvious reason. Keep in mind that spores of fungi are transported by air and can travel from an infected person to a healthy one. Once they reach the scalp, the spores develop into fungi and the disease starts.
The reason why Tinea capitis is usually found on kids and rarely on adults is unknown. Scientists suspect that the sebum on the scalp can protect it from such infections and it is produced in greater amounts after the age of puberty, thus granting higher resistance to the disease.
In more severe forms, the scalp ringworm causes areas of baldness on the scalp. Not only the hair falls off, but the area gets covered in scales and can become inflamed. Sometimes, patches of damaged and broken hair can remain in the bald zone. In severe infections, acute pustules can appear in the affected areas.
An even more severe escalation of the disease happens rarely and the infected area of the scalp becomes a so-called kerion. This looks like a swollen patch of the scalp and can have serious consequences. Without immediate treatment, the hair loss becomes permanent and the area can remain scarred.
Strong infections like the ones that cause pustules or a kerion can also lead to high fever and the lymphatic glands around the neck become swollen and painful. Damaged bits can start to fall off the scalp, such as broken pieces of skin and hair. The scalp develops scales and in the worst case scenario it can even looks like a sizeable abscess.
Several natural oils can be effective against Tinea capitis. Some of the best choices for treatment at home are castor oil, coconut oil or lavender oil. These must be applied on the scalp for a longer period of time and have a double effect: they fight the infection and relieve the sensation of itching. Adding some almond oil or jojoba oil to the mix will improve the effect of the other oils.
Another extremely simple home remedy is to rub the infected areas with slices of green (unripe) papaya fruit. Doing this twice per day can be surprisingly effective for such a simple cure. As an alternative, sectioned cloves of garlic can be applied to the ringworm two times per day. For best effects, this should be repeated daily for at least two weeks, in order to get rid of the fungus for good.
Mixing apple cider vinegar with water and washing the scalp with it is another old and tested way to remove the infection at home. This treatment is more effective if lavender oil is applied to the area after rinsing. This is also a long-term treatment that should be continued for at least ten days in order to cure the disease.
Elma 11 Hair and Scalp Revitalizer is one natural product that can also be used, since it doesn't have any chemical content and is a mix of herbal ingredients with many health benefits.