Q&A: Are scabies and ringworm contagious?
I'm about to start sending my child to daycare and I'm afraid he'll contract one of the skin infections I hear are commonly passed around. What are ringworm and scabies, exactly? How can they be treated, and how can I prevent my child from getting them?
Being well educated about what your child may be exposed to is smart, but remember: Sometimes no matter what you do, your child may come into contact with one or more of these infections. Most infections are treatable, and your child can return to daycare within 24 to 48 hours of treatment. Check with your doctor and daycare center for guidelines.
Good hand washing is key! Teach your kids not to share cups, hats, clothing, hair ties or bows, combs, or hairbrushes. Make sure your child’s daycare facility has an adequate cleaning and disinfecting regimen for toys, countertops, tables, and floors.
Pets can also bring these germs into your home and into contact with your child. If you notice a rash on your dog or cat, restrict contact until a diagnosis can be made.
Here are a few of the infections you may run into or hear about:
Ringworm: Contrary to what you might think, ringworm is not caused by an actual worm; it is caused by a fungus that results in a fungal infection.
Symptoms: A reddish, itchy, rash-like ring will appear on the skin. It can also be on the scalp and may be white and flaky or cause “bald patches” where the fungus is. It can be spread through direct contact or from an object like those mentioned above (clothing, toys, surfaces).
Treatment: If your child has contracted ringworm, see the pediatrician. If it is present on the scalp, the doctor will most likely provide an oral medication and instruct you on which shampoos to use on your child. If the rash is only on the skin, a topical ointment or cream will be prescribed. Once the lesion begins to shrink it is no longer contagious.
Scabies: This contagious infection of the skin is caused by the burrowing of tiny mites to lay their eggs, just under the top layer of skin.
Symptoms: A red, darkened rash—sometimes in wavy lines—will appear. Characteristically, you’ll see it on the wrists, between fingers, or on your child’s feet. This is quite itchy and small pustules may form, but discourage your child strongly from scratching, because those nasty pustules can burst when scratched.
Treatment: If one family member contracts this infection, the whole crew will need to be treated, as it is highly contagious. Your child’s doctor or dermatologist will check for scabies by scraping the skin and looking under a microscope to make the diagnosis. A topical cream will be prescribed and should be applied all over the body, not just on the rashy areas. Apply the cream before bed and it can be washed off in the morning (the cream must be left on for at least eight hours). Your doctor may also suggest an antihistamine to help with itching or a hydrocortisone ointment to lessen swelling.
Rashes: These can be tough for the untrained eye to diagnose, so if your child has a rash that looks unusual, call your doctor right away.