What are fungal scalp infections?
Most often, it is children who have fungal scalp infections, but not always. Fungal infections of the scalp are caused by skin fungi (dermatophytes). In many cases the infection has come from a pet. This is a skin disease that needs treatment, because an untreated fungal infection can, in the worst cases, lead to loss of hair and patches of baldness.
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What does a fungal scalp infection look like – and what does it feel like?
Anyone can pick up a fungus, regardless of age or gender. However, it is often children who are affected. In many cases the infection will have been picked up from a pet (dog, cat, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, calf or other small animals). In that case it is also important to treat the animal for the fungal infection too, or you risk catching it again.
It is also important to be treated yourself, as the fungal infection can be passed on from person to person. A fungal scalp infection can be seen as red, scaly spots on the skin, where the hairs may have broken off.
The skin will be slightly irritated, and will often itch. The lymph nodes in the neck may be swollen. In some cases inflamed patches may appear on the skin, and a fluid-filled boil, also called a kerion, may form.
Fungal scalp infection can lead to hair loss
A fungal scalp infection will often cause patches of hair loss. It is very important to have it treated quickly, so that the hair loss does not spread. It is also important to get the scalp fungus treated generally, as it can lead to permanent hair loss and thus to patches of baldness. If a fungal scalp infection is correctly treated, the hair will grow back in the great majority of cases, but it may take a long time before it is quite normal again.
Get a doctor to examine the symptoms
Symptoms of a fungal infection on the scalp can at first sight resemble the symptoms of several other diseases such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. It is therefore important to see a doctor if you have a scaly rash, an itching scalp and possibly hair loss, so that the doctor can make the right diagnosis. This can be done by taking a sample of the rash (a skin scrape).
How can a fungal scalp infection be treated?
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A fungal infection of the scalp will not go away by itself. It is important you get it treated, and begin quickly, so that any hair loss does not spread too much.
A fungal scalp infection must be treated with a fungicide. This may be given in the form of tablets, a liquid syrup, or fungicidal cream. If a kerion has formed, it may be necessary to supplement with cortisone for a period.
Additionally, a fungal infection on the scalp can be treated with a fungicidal shampoo for fungi. It is a good idea to combine the tablet, syrup or cream treatment with shampoo – this gives the best results.
It is then a good idea for the whole family to use the antibacterial shampoo as a precaution, even though no fungal scalp infection has been found (yet) on other members of the family. If you choose a good, mild shampoo for delicate scalps you can safely use it on all the family and for extended periods.
Natural remedies for problems on the scalp
There are numerous natural remedies that are said to work for itching and irritation on the scalp, including Tea Tree Oil, sandal wood oil, garlic, turmeric, ginger, liquorice root and camomile.
You can make your own mixture, but of course, it is easier to use a shampoo that contains precisely the natural ingredients that work against bacteria. Hair Clean Shampoo is a mild, nurturing shampoo which is suitable for all the family. It is antiseptic and antibacterial, and can be used both to prevent and to treat problems on the scalp.
In addition, you can with advantage use a scalp remedy such as Scalp Serum from Australian Bodycare. It is also antiseptic, and reduces the growth of bacteria and fungi on the scalp. At the same time, it nurtures and soothes the scalp.
Video: How to avoid problems on the scalp with Tea Tree Oil.
How can you prevent a fungal scalp infection?
Fungal scalp infection can be passed on, so for that reason alone, it should be treated. Until the fungus has cleared up, it is best not to share towels, hairbrushes or anything like that with others. In general, hair brushes, combs, hair slides, hats and anything else that comes in close contact with the hair and the scalp should be regarded as personal, and not shared with others. Things like hats must be washed at minimum 60 degrees. Freezing has no effect on fungal spores. It may therefore be necessary to throw away hair brushes, combs and similar objects to avoid infection or reinfection.
If the infection came from an animal, the animal must be treated. Otherwise you risk being infected again.
To prevent and avoid fungal scalp infections in future, you can use a shampoo for scalp fungus, that is effective against fungus and bacteria. You can easily find a mild, skin-friendly shampoo that can be used daily by all the family, but is still effective against fungus and bacteria.
Why do people get fungal scalp infections?
Fungi on the scalp are usually caught from a pet that has skin fungi. The fungus can also develop for other reasons.
In general, we have many different fungal spores all over us – and in our surroundings. This is natural, and it is only when the spores multiply enough to trouble us that we develop a fungal disease. Normally, our bodies can ensure that the natural fungi do not spread too much. When it happens in spite of this, it is usually because the body’s natural defence mechanism has been disturbed. This may happen during an illness, when the immune response has been weakened, or in connection with a course of antibiotics, pregnancy or menstruation, or because the body’s pH balance has been shifted.
The balance in the body may also change because of stress or an incorrect diet, and then the fungal spores have good conditions for growth. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but that also means that the fungi in the body have better conditions for growth.
Treatment with antibiotics or penicillin may also lead to a fungal scalp infection.