Contrary to popular belief, ringworm (tinea corporis) has nothing to do with worms, it is actually an infection caused by a dermatophyte, which is a type of fungus. Dermatophyte infections are very common and can affect anyone, even people who are healthy. Spread of the infection normally occurs through direct contact with an infected person or animal. Read on to learn how to get rid of ringworm.
How to Identify Ringworm
Look for scaly areas and bald patches on the scalp. Ringworm on specific areas of the body, such as the scalp, is not usually ring-shaped, making it more difficult to distinguish from other skin rashes, such as seborrhea and dandruff. Ringworm on the scalp may start out like a spot or pimple, before developing into a flaky, scaly rash which feels tender to the touch. Its most distinguishing characteristic, however, is that it tends to cause hair to fall out, leaving bald patches on the scalp.
Look for ring-shaped, itchy patches on the body. Ringworm that affects the skin on the body often manifests itself in a rash that could be described as classic ringworm. This rash is usually round, with raised, scaly edges and a clear center – hence the name ringworm.
- The borders of the rash may expand over time and they are usually clearly defined.
- Ringworm rashes tend to be itchy and uncomfortable and may blister and ooze.
Look for a reddish-brown rash around the groin. Ringworm which develops around the groin is also known as “jock itch” and usually appears as a reddish-brown rash which can spread from the folds of the groin to the inner thighs.
- The rash will have clearly defined borders and may produce blister-like bumps which feel itchy and tender.
- Ringworm around the groin will often appear in conjunction with athlete’s foot, or ringworm on the feet.
Look for red, scaly patches on the face. Ringworm on the face comes in two forms: tinia barbae which develops on the bearded area of the face in men, and tinia faciei which develops outside the bearded areas. Facial ringworm is rarely ring shaped, and appears instead as red, scaly patches with indistinct edges.
- Facial ringworm may become worse when exposed to direct sunlight.
Look for thick, yellowed finger and toe nails. When ringworm infects the nails, it appears differently to other forms of ringworm. The fungus turns the nails thick, yellow and crumbly. It is more common on the toe nails than the fingernails, especially amongst those who suffer from athlete’s foot.
Look for scaling and inflammation between the toes or on the soles of the feet. Also known as “athlete’s foot”, ringworm on the feet is probably the most common form of ringworm. It develops as a patchy, scaly, inflamed rash on the webbing between the toes, or as scaly, blistered skin on the heels and soles of the feet.
See a doctor to confirm the diagnoses. When ringworm develops without its characteristic ring-shaped rash, it an be difficult to differentiate from other skin conditions. In this case, it is better to see a doctor who can confirm a diagnoses of ringworm, as ringworm is a form of fungal infection which will not respond to treatments which target other skin conditions.
- A doctor can confirm ringworm infection by taking a skin scraping from the rash and examining it under a microscope to identify fungal infection.
While seeing a doctor, be prepared to answer questions such as:
- When you first noticed symptoms
- How the rash looked when it first appeared
- Whether the rash is painful or itchy
How to Get Rid of Ringworm
Use an anti-fungal ointment or cream. Most ringworm infections can be cleared up using a topical anti-fungal cream or ointment within about two weeks. Examples of such creams include: clotrimazole, miconazole, ketoconazole, econazole, naftifine and terbafine. Most of these products are available over-the-counter, though a doctor may prescribe stronger creams for particularly stubborn or widespread infections. Apply according to the directions on the packet.
Change your sheets and night clothes every day until the ringworm is gone.To eliminate the chance of reinfection, you should use fresh sheets and wear clean pajamas every night until the infection has passed. This may seem like a bit of a hassle, but it’s worth it to avoid exposing yourself to the ringworm all over again.
Wear light, loose-fitting clothing while the infection heals. Tight clothing may irritate your rash even further, and is more inclined to make you sweat which can lead to damp skin. Light, loose, cotton clothing is your best option when getting rid of ringworm. Men should steer clear of tighty-whities and stick to airy boxer shorts, and women should avoid wearing panty hose.
Wash and dry the infected area well. Before each application of the anti-fungal cream, you should wash the rash-covered area well, with anti-fungal soap if possible, then dry it thoroughly with a clean towel. Ringworm flourishes under damp conditions, so keeping the area dry is very important.
Have a doctor prescribe anti-fungal medication if the ringworm persists. In cases of persistent ringworm, or for infections of the scalp and nails, it may be necessary to treat the fungus systemically, through prescribed oral medications. Three month courses of anti-fungal pills such as terbinafine, itraconazole and fluconazole should effectively clear up the infection.
Home Remedies for Ringworm
Try garlic. Garlic is a an effective natural anti-fungal and many claim it to be an effective treatment for ringworm. You can either slice up a fresh clove of garlic and place these slices over the infected area, holding them in place with a bandage, or you can make a paste by blending up fresh garlic and spread the paste directly on the rash. The garlic will sting a little at first, but this will subside.
Apply tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an anti-bacterial agent which is commonly used to treat burns, cuts and other infections. It may also help to ameliorate symptoms of ringworm. You will need to dilute the pure tea tree oil to half its normal strength with water, then apply this solution directly to the rash using a cotton ball. You will need to repeat this treatment daily for at least a couple of weeks to see results.
Use apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is lauded as a miracle cure for a vast array of ailments, and ringworm is no exception. Simply apply the vinegar directly to the rash, using a clean cotton ball, up to three times per day.
Try black walnut extract. Black walnut extract is an older natural remedy for ringworm which still has its proponents. Black walnut extract can be found at most health food stores and should be applied topically to the ringworm infection, undiluted, using a cotton ball.
Use colloidial silver. This natural antibiotic has been shown to effectively kill microorganisms, and is rumored to help clear up ringworm. Colloidial silver is available in both gel and liquid form, so try spraying or spreading a little on the rash-covered area at least twice a day.
Apply powdered licorice root. Licorice root is reputed to have numerous anti-fungal properties, so using it to treat ringworm is worth a shot. Try mixing six teaspoons of powdered licorice root with a cup of water and bring it to a boil. Once boiled, strain the liquid and allow it to cool. Dab the liquid onto the ringworm rash with a cotton ball, approximately three times a day.
Use myrrh. Myrrh is another natural anti-fungal. Simply mix equal parts myrrh and goldenseal powder with a little water to form a paste and spread this on the infected skin at least three times a day.
How to Prevent Ringworm
Do not share clothing, sports equipment, towels, combs or other personal items. Ringworm is highly contagious, so limiting your contact with other people’s personal care items is advisable.
Keep your body clean and dry. Ringworm thrives in damp conditions, so minimizing sweat can help to prevent fungal infections from developing. Shower once a day and make sure to dry your body thoroughly with a clean towel before dressing. You should also make sure to dry your feet last, to avoid spreading infection from the feet to other areas of the body. You should also shampoo your hair regularly, especially if you’ve recently had a haircut.
Wear sandals or flip-flops in public showers and locker rooms. As mentioned above, athlete’s foot is the most common form of ringworm. This is due to the fact that it is easily spread in the damp, warm conditions found in swimming pools, public showers and gym locker rooms. To protect your feet, make sure to wear sandals or flip flops as much as possible, and consider wearing swim socks in the pool.
Avoid touching pets who have symptoms of ringworm. Ringworm is also common in animals and can easily spread from pets to people, through physical contact with the infection. If you suspect that your cat or dog may have ringworm, avoid touching them and bring them to see a veterinarian immediately.
- If you do touch the animal accidentally, wash the contact area thoroughly with anti-fungal soap as quickly as possible.
Put socks on before underwear. Many cases of ringworm in the groin area have developed as a result of underwear coming in contact with athlete’s foot while getting dressed. To avoid this, make sure to put socks on first, before boxers and briefs.
- You should also wear clean socks and underwear everyday.
- Always wash hands after coming in contact with ringworm.
- Avoid walking barefoot, wear appropriate protective shoes to the beach and wear flip-flops in locker rooms. This is especially important to not spread the infection, or to not become infected.
- Ringworm can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated, which makes it more difficult to treat.
- Infected pets should also be treated.
- Do not share clothing, sports equipment, towels, or sheets.
- Do not apply a bandage over the infected area.
- Avoid contact with others as the infection is extremely contagious. In most cases ringworm can develop in less than ten minutes.
- Parts of the body infected by a dermatophyte may cause a secondary infection due to bacteria.
- Clothing, bedding and towels can become contaminated and quickly spread the infection.
- Dermatophyte infections can affect the skin on almost any part of the body. Including the scalp, legs, arms, feet, groin and nails.
- Wrestlers are at a high risk of contracting ringworm.
- Make sure your pets are evaluated by a veterinarian. Ringworm is easily transmitted from your pets to household members.
- For reasons yet unknown, a dermatophyte infection that affects the scalp and hair does not occur after puberty.