Tinea Versicolor in Children

What is tinea versicolor in children?

Tinea versicolor is a fungal skin infection. It’s caused by yeast on the skin. It occurs most often in teens 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 in a child?

Yeast normally lives on the skin in small amounts. Tinea versicolor occurs when yeast expands and increases greatly in number (overgrows).

Which children are 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 in a child?

Often, 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.

Here are other aspects of the rash:

  • An infection is 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.

  • You notice the patches more 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 their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history. They will also give your child an exam. The patches caused by this condition 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 the provider may do skin scrapings of the lesions. This can help confirm the diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor treated in a child?

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

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

The treatment won't make your child’s skin return to its normal color right away. This may take a few weeks or months. It’s important not to tan and to protect skin from the sun.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

If your child’s treatment isn’t working, call their healthcare provider. They may suggest other treatments.

Key points about tinea versicolor in children

  • Tinea versicolor is a fungal skin infection. It’s caused by yeast on the skin. It occurs most often in teens and young adults.

  • Often, 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 advise 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: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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