Pronounced: tin-EE-ah CAP-i-tis
Tinea capitis is a skin infection that affects the scalp.
Ringworm of the Scalp
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Tinea captis is caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte. The fungi thrive in warm, humid environments.
Tinea capitis usually affects children under the age of 10 years, and those of African descent. Other factors that may increase your child's chance for tinea capitis include:
Tinea capitis may cause:
If left untreated, tinea capitis may cause permanent hair loss and scarring.
Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child may need to be referred to a specialist. A dermatologist focuses on skin issues.
The diagnosis is often made with close inspection of the scalp. If the diagnosis is uncertain, the doctor may scrape your child’s scalp or clip a few hairs for testing.
Tests on the sample may include:
The main treatment for tinea capitis is prescription antifungal medications. The condition can be difficult to treat. In some cases, tinea capitis can return after treatment. For some children, the condition goes away during the time of puberty.
Using an antifungal shampoo may help to reduce the risk of spreading the condition to others.
To help reduce your child’s chance of tinea capitis:
American Academy of Dermatology
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Dermatology Association
Givens TG, Murray MM, Baker RC. Comparison of 1% and 2.5% selenium sulfide in the treatment of tinea capitis. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(7):808-811.
Noble SL, Forbes RC. Diagnosis and management of common tinea infections. Am Fam Physician. 1998;58(1):163-174.
Tinea capitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated April 6, 2011. Accessed September 7, 2011.
Last reviewed October 2014 by David L Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 1/13/2014