Hairdressers across Spain are in the midst of a ringworm outbreak. The fungal disease is most prevalent among male adolescents and young adults and has probably been spread by electric razors.
What is ringworm?
Also known as dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or tinea, ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin. It is not caused by worms, but it is nicknamed “ringworm” because the rash is shaped like a circular worm.
Ringworm can appear in different parts of the body, and in the head it is called tinea capitis (or ringworm of the scalp). It is characterised by a rash that causes itchy, scaly, bald patches on the head. If left untreated it may spread. In severe cases it may produce crusty swellings (kerions) that drain pus and produce permanent bald spots and scarring.
Ringworm is contagious and carried by about 40 different species of fungus. It may spread human to human, animal to human, object to human, or soil to human. Risk factors include:
- Live in a warm, humid climate.
- Use public showers or locker rooms.
- Participate in contact sports.
- Share hairbrushes and other objects.
- Come in close contact with animals.
- Have a weak immune system.
- Suffer from diabetes or obesity.
If you think you may have ringworm see a dermatologist. They will probably prescribe fungi-killing oral medication and medicated shampoo.
Ringworm outbreak in Spain
The current outbreak in Spain has been going on for months and is most prevalent among male adolescents and young adults. The main reason seems to be a lack of due diligence by hairdressers and barbers who should be disinfecting their equipment in-between customers.
Dermatologists have pointed out that the current trend of short-back-and-sides hairstyles makes the spread of ringworm more likely. The reason is that these haircuts require electric razors that come into close contact with the scalp. Weekly haircuts so close to the scalp will weaken the skin and make it easier for the fungus from a contaminated hair razor to infect.