Tinea Capitis



Tinea capitis is caused by a fungus that invades the hair shafts. It is spread by:

  • Person to person contact
  • Contact with the fungus on:
    • Fallen hair
    • Combs, hats, and bedding
  • Contact with pets that have the fungus

Risk Factors

Tinea capitis is more common in children 3 to 7 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Sharing combs, brushes, or hats
  • A weak immune system, such as with:
    • HIV
    • Certain long term diseases such as diabetes or cancer
  • Crowded living conditions
  • A large family size



Tinea capitis may cause:

  • Itching of the scalp (not always present)
  • Bald patches
  • Scales, sores, or black dots on the scalp


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the scalp. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

If the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor may scrape the scalp or clip a few hairs to look for signs of infection.



Antifungal medicine will be given to kill the infection. It may be taken by mouth or used as a cream or shampoo. This can also help lower the chances that the infection will spread to others.


The risk of tinea capitis can be lowered by not sharing combs, brushes, or headgear.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.