"If youre tempted to borrow a friends beanie or baseball cap, think again..."
Dr Bessam Farjo, leading hair transplant surgeon
Think twice before sharing hats with your friends this summer - because you could end up with a harrowing ringworm infection.
That’s the advice from experts, who want to increase awareness about how this highly-contagious bug is spread.
And it’s also bad news for those fond of their hair - as severe outbreaks of ringworm can also leave unfortunate patients with irreversible bald spots!
Scalp ringworm - aka 'Tinea capitis’ is an infection of the scalp hair and the surrounding skin with a horde of microscopic fungal organisms - a mould-like parasite.
Despite its name, it’s not caused by a worm, but gets its moniker from the ring-shaped, scaly red rash that appears on the skin.
The NHS warns people not to share towels or bedsheets with someone who has ringworm.
In most cases of ringworm - which can appear anywhere on the body, particularly the groin - an infection can be treated with anti-fungal medication.
But it’s more tricky to get rid of when it’s on the scalp, requiring prescription antifungal tablets and special shampoo.
And if you leave it too long before seeking help, you could end up with hair loss - aka patches of permanent hair loss.
Leading UK hair restoration and transplant specialist Dr Bessam Farjo says Brits need to be careful.
Dr Farjo, founder of the Farjo Hair Institute and headquartered in Manchester, explains: “Tinea capitis is highly contagious and can very easily be spread from person to person sharing hats.
“If you’re tempted to borrow a friend’s beanie or baseball cap, think again.
"The incubation period for ringworm in humans is typically around two weeks.
“That means that the fungal spores are present before you actually see the ringworm outbreak - and you can therefore catch it from someone even before it shows up on them.
“And while it’s more common in children, you can become infected at any age.
"Tinea capitis thrives on dead tissue, such as hair and on outer layers of skin, and prefers warmth and moisture - making underneath hats a perfect breeding ground!”
Dr Farjo says other symptoms of scalp ringworm include brittle hair, a scalp that's sore or painful, swollen lymph nodes and a slight fever.
And he adds: "Severe cases could lead to crusty lesions, called kerion, that seep pus.
“And unfortunately, in these extreme cases of ringworm of the scalp, the infection can result in serious inflammation, scarring and even permanent hair loss.
“In cases where hair won’t grow back, the patient may have to consider hair transplantation to cover the bald area."
But now Dr Thiviyani Maruthappu, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson, says you should stop sharing hats, too.
Dr Maruthappu says: "Scalp ringworm or “Tinea Capitis” is caused by a fungal infection.
"It is contagious and can be passed on by sharing hats, combs, hairbrushes, pillowcases or towels with an infected person.
"It is therefore important to take precautions by avoiding sharing hats to prevent spread of the infection.”
A GP will usually diagnose ringworm of the scalp by examining the head.
They may also take a skin sample to confirm diagnosis.
Meanwhile it’s also possible to catch ringworm from infected animals such as dogs, cats, horses or farm animals.
It's estimated that 10-20% of people will have ringworm in their lifetime.
And there are five main types - ringworm of the body (Tinea corporis), ringworm of the groin (Tinea cruris), ringworm of the foot (Tinea pedis), ringworm of the nail (Tinea unguium) and the scalp-affecting Tinea capitis.
There are also certain things that might make your ringworm more serious than in other patients - which includes having diabetes, being obese, having circulation problems or having had a skin infection previously.
How to stop ringworm spreading, according to the NHS website:
• start treatment as soon as possible
• wash towels and bedsheets regularly
• keep your skin clean and wash your hands after touching animals or soil
• regularly check your skin if you have been in contact with an infected person or animal
• take your pet to the vet if they might have ringworm (for example, patches of missing fur)
• do not share towels, combs and bedsheets with someone who has ringworm
• do not scratch a ringworm rash – this could spread it to other parts of your body