Ringworm is not a worm; rather, this ring-shaped infection is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. Also known as tinea, ringworm is highly contagious skin infection that is easily contracted from soil, animals, and other human beings.
Ringworm thrives in warm, humid environments such as soil, showers, locker rooms, and skin folds. The fungus is spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching contaminated items like towels or sports equipment.
Ringworm is most commonly transferred from person to person, but you can also get ringworm by touching an infected animal. You can contract ringworm of the scalp by sharing contaminated hairbrushes, combs or hats.
The ringworm rash does not appear immediately after contact. Following exposure, the fungus can take up to two weeks to appear.
Symptoms of Ringworm
Most individuals with ringworms experience a red, itchy rash. Often, but not always, the rash presents in a ring-shaped pattern. Ringworm of the scalp can appear flaky and is sometimes mistaken for dandruff.
Ringworm or tinea that develops on different body parts may be known by different names. When the fungus appears on the feet, it is called “athlete’s foot.” In the groin area, tinea is commonly referred to as “jock itch.”
Dermatologists can diagnose most cases of ringworm through visual examination. If necessary, the diagnosis can be confirmed by collecting a skin scraping of the affected area to be viewed under a microscope.
Treatment of Ringworm
It is important to treat ringworm promptly to stop the fungus from progressing or spreading. Ringworm often responds to over-the-counter antifungal medications, but it is important to visit a dermatology clinic for a medical diagnosis, since the fungus can mimic other conditions.
Ringworm can be treated with creams that contain one of the following antifungal medications:
To treat, wash the affected area with a mild soap and water and dry well. Apply the cream, making sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Continue treatment twice a day for 7 to 10 days and leave the area open to air. Persistent or extensive cases of ringworm may require oral prescription medication. Ringworm affecting hair bearing areas such as the scalp and beard, as well as cases of toenail fungus require treatment with an oral prescription medication.
Preventive measures include screening and treating infected pets. Signs of infection in your pets may include patches of missing fur. Also, take care to where sandals in the locker room. To prevent spreading foot fungus to the groin, where socks before putting on under garments. It may also be a good idea to thoroughly wash/dry shoes and regularly treat footwear with antifungal sprays/powders. Remember, fungus thrives in moist environments, so try to keep your feet dry by wearing socks.