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Tinea Versicolor in Children

What is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a fungal skin infection. It’s caused by yeast on the skin. It occurs most often in adolescents and young adults. But it can happen at any time.

This condition causes lighter or darker patches on your child’s skin. These patches are often on your child’s chest or back. They stop the skin from tanning evenly.

What causes tinea versicolor?

Yeast normally live on the skin. This condition occurs when yeast overgrow.

Who is at risk for tinea versicolor?

The following can increase your child’s risk for tinea versicolor:

  • Living in a hot, humid climate
  • Having moist and oily skin
  • Having a weakened immune system

What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

Usually, the only symptom of this condition is white, pink, or light brown patches on your child’s skin. The patches may have scale-like flakes. It normally doesn’t itch or hurt.

Other characteristics of the rash may include:

  • An infection only on the top layers of the skin
  • The rash is on your child’s chest or back
  • The rash isn’t usually on the face
  • Patches get worse in the heat or humidity
  • Patches are more noticeable in the summer
  • Patches get worse if your child takes steroid medicines or has a weakened immune system

The symptoms of this condition may look like symptoms of other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an exam. The patches caused by this issue are unique. Healthcare providers are often able to make the diagnosis through an exam.

Your child’s healthcare provider may use an ultraviolet light, called a Woods Lamp, to see the patches more clearly. Also, your child's healthcare provider may do skin scrapings of the lesions. This can help confirm the diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor treated?

Your child’s healthcare provider may recommend a shampoo that contains selenium sulfide. This shampoo is available over the counter. If this treatment doesn’t work, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe an antifungal or dandruff shampoo. Your child will apply the shampoo to his or her affected skin. Your child's healthcare provider may also prescribe topical creams or oral antifungal medicines.

Your child’s skin may only get better for a short time. Then the condition may happen again. Your child’s healthcare provider may tell your child to use the shampoo each month to keep tinea versicolor from combing back.

Also, the treatment will not make your child’s skin return to its normal color right away. This may take several months.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

If your child’s treatment isn’t working, call his or her healthcare provider. He or she may suggest other treatments.

Key points about tinea versicolor

  • Tinea versicolor is a fungal skin infection. It’s caused by yeast on the skin. It occurs most often in adolescents and young adults.
  • Usually, the only symptom of this condition is white, pink, or light brown patches of skin.
  • The patches caused by this issue are unique. Healthcare providers are often able to diagnose the condition through an exam.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider may recommend using a shampoo that contains selenium sulfide.
  • If this treatment doesn’t work, call your child's healthcare provider to talk about other treatments.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Date Last Reviewed: 9/30/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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