Ringworm on the scalp of an adult or child is not dangerous. But without treatment, the hair loss may spread to other parts of the scalp and create an extremely uncomfortable situation. Some children develop a kerion, which is a sometimes very tender swelling of the scalp that if infected, can drain pus. Kerions are an allergic reaction to fungal agents that cause ringworm and may require additional treatment.
Ringworm is mildly contagious. In the days before antifungal medications, about 5% of school contacts usually became infected. However, 25% of siblings developed ringworm. Usually, once your child has begun using a ringworm cream and received one washing with the special shampoo, he can return to school. Caution your child not to share combs or caps with other children and be sure to check the scalps of your child’s siblings regularly. Hair regrowth is normal after treatment but will can 6 to 12 months to completely return. In the meantime, your child can wear a hat or scarf to hide the bald areas. It is psychologically harmful and unnecessary to shave the hair, give a close haircut, or to force your child to wear a protective skull cap.
The use of an antifungal shampoo makes your child less contagious and allows him to return to day care or school. Purchase a nonprescription shampoo containing selenium sulfide (e.g., Selsun). Lather up and leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing. Use the antifungal shampoo twice a week for the next 8 weeks. On other days, use a regular shampoo.