Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Ringworm
This is a skin infection caused by a fungus that can affect the scalp, skin, fingers, toenails, or feet. The disease has nothing to do with worms or rings. Scalp ringworm is the most common fungal skin infection in children. While anyone can get ringworm, children are more susceptible to certain varieties.
Patients are infectious for as long as the lesions appear on the body; if untreated, the condition may last for years.
Cause - Ringworm is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with infected people or pets, or with indirect contact with items such as barber clippers, shower stalls, or floors. Children can get it from playing with ringworm-infected dogs or cats or from sharing combs, brushes, headphones, towels, pillows, hats, and sofas.
Symptoms - The infection usually begins as a small pimple that gets larger and larger, leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness; infected hair is brittle and breaks off easily. Sometimes there is a yellow cuplike crusty area. The infection usually is seen 10 to 14 days after contact. Ringworm of the scalp (Tinea capitis) involves scaly, temporary bald patches with dandruff-like white scales. The hair may be dull, and the infection may affect only one part of the scalp or may spread over the entire head. A severe case may include fever and swollen glands below the hairline. Ringworm of the nails causes thick, discolored, and brittle or chalky and friable nails. Ringworm of the body (Tinea corporis) is flat and ring-shaped; the edge is red and may be dry and scaly, or moist and crusted. The center area clears and appears normal. Symptoms occur 4 to 10 days after contact. The rings can appear on face, legs, arms, or trunk. Ringworm of the foot appears as a scaling or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes. Since so many species of fungus can cause ringworm, infection with one species won't make a person immune to future infections from other species.
Diagnosis - Microscopic inspection of infected hair or skin scrapings will reveal certain characteristics of the fungus. The doctor may use an ultraviolet light called a Wood's light to diagnose ringworm; when the lamp is shone on an affected area, the fungus may show as a yellowish or brilliant green fluorescence, depending on the type of fungus. (The most common type of scalp fungus will not have this effect.)
Treatment - Antifungal medication (such as griseofulvin) by mouth or applied to the skin. An antifungal ointment applied directly to the scalp will stop the ringworm from spreading to other areas of the head, and to a child's friends. Any secondary bacterial infection will be treated with antibiotics. Boggy raised areas of the scalp (keratons) will require a special cream and a cotton cap to cover the scalp until the areas dry. The infected hair will need to be clipped and a special shampoo used. Body ringworm is easier to treat; a variety of antifungal creams will work. The patient should wash well with soap and water and remove all scabs and crusts. Antifungal cream should then be rubbed into all lesions.
Prevention - People should not share towels, hats, or clothing of an infected person. Good grooming and hygiene and frequent checks of a child's scalp can prevent the disease. Once an infection has been diagnosed, all contaminated articles must be cleaned to prevent further infection. Combs, brushes, hats, scarves, and bedding must be cleaned in hot, soapy water.
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