Ringworm or Fungal Infections of the Scalp

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Fungal Infections:  What to Look For to Help Your Clients?

Ringworm Has Nothing to Do with Worms

Black Dot Tinea Capitis

Black Dot Tinea Capitis

Most hair professionals know that ringworm is a term used to describe a fungal infection.  When ringworm occurs on the scalp, it is referred to as Tinea capitis. Ringworm is highly contagious and can be very stubborn to treat, sometimes persisting for years.  It can have a distinctive look, that is easy to recognize, or it can be obscure causing scaly flaky areas that look like dandruff, but upon closer inspection features of a fungus can be identified.

As a hair stylist or barber, you have to make sure that you keep your hair equipment and work station beyond merely clean.  Everything needs to be sterile, and you need to take precautions to avoid spreading any type of infection, including ringworm and other fungal infections.  When individuals have an inconspicuous form of ringworm, this can be more difficult to do.

What Does Ringworm Look Like?

If you work with hair, you need to know exactly what ringworm looks like so you can identify it quickly.  You will also need to be able to break the news to clients who may not realize that they have this fungal infection of the scalp, although for the most part they will know something is not right.

While the ‘worm’ part of the name doesn’t make a lot of sense, the ‘ring’ part does.  This infection is characterized by red rings on the skin and scalp.  The center might be inflamed or the skin inside the ring may appear normal while there is usually an advancing border that is active.  The rings can vary in size.  When ringworm affects the scalp, it causes patchy hair loss.  The patches are generally round.

There is another type of ringworm of the scalp that is less commonly known and it is referred to as “black dot” tinea capitis.  The term black dot is used because the hair follicles infected with the fungal organisms tend to swell up and enlarge and the infected hairs break off at the skin surface.  Usually the skin on the scalp in these areas is dry and flaky so many times the areas look like dandruff, but upon closer inspection, the areas of black dots can be identified.

At times a ringworm infection can also show up in the form of pimple like pus bumps which look similar to regular cases of folliculitis.  However, on some occasions, it can be possible to see a broken off hair at the surface suggestive of black dot ringworm as well.

Other Types of Ringworm

Ringworm can also strike the skin beneath a man’s beard, and yes that causes bald patches in the beard as hair breaks off, or sometimes just dry, flaky patches that itch.

Preventing the Spread of Ringworm

Ringworm is extremely contagious, especially black dot ringworm because it spreads from human to human.  Some forms of ringworm come from animals and some come from soil or dirt, but the black dot type comes from other persons.  And yes, it can be spread by using the same comb or brush and contaminated pillow cases too.

In the hair salon or barber shop, keeping clean equipment and your work station properly and completely sanitized between clients is advisable, however the spores that cause black dot tinea capitis can be stubborn and only be killed by steam sterilization techniques which are not usually done in a salon environment so if you detect this type of infection in a client, it will be best to have them get medical treatment before rendering a service and working on their hair.

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