What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is an infection of the skin and it is also known as tinea.  It is caused by microscopic organisms called fungi that live off of your dead tissues on your nails, skin and hair.

It can be recognized by small blisters and scaly skin and it can spread quite easily. When it spreads it looks like red rings.  Adults can get ringworm but it is most common in children. It is contagious and can be spread by sharing clothing, towels and other items.  Animals can also get ringworm and they can spread it to people via direct contact.

What are the Symptoms of Ringworm?

The most common symptom of ringworm is the itchy rash that usually forms a ring.  It may not appear as a ring though and can just appear to be a rash. The skin becomes scaly and dry and very thick.  Skin between fingers might be open and moist.

Ringworm Causes

Ringworm is a fungal infection in the skin which can be caused by 40 different types of fungi. It is a contagious condition and can be contracted by anybody, but people with weak immune systems are at a particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill from the infection.

One of the most common ways to contract ringworm is when using public showers and locker rooms, because the fungus survives particularly well in warm, moist environments. For this reason, athletes are at very high risk of contracting ringworm, particularly if they also live in hot, humid areas.

Ringworm can be passed directly from one person to another via skin to skin contact. It’s also possible to pick it up from touching an animal with the infection. Ringworm fungi can also live in soil which makes it possible to contract it when gardening. Plus, it can live on any infected object for a long time, which means people can pick it up from unwashed clothing, towels and sports equipment which were previously used by someone with ringworm.

How is Ringworm Treated?

Ringworm can be treated with creams that can be purchased over-the-counter and applied at home.  Sometimes the rash clears up quickly but you should treat the infected area for as long as the instructions or your doctor tells you to prevent it from reappearing.

Some cases of ringworm may require a prescription to get rid of the fungus. Antibiotics are necessary if the infection has continued for too long and the skin has cracked and become infected.

Ringworm Prevention

Good hygiene practices are vital to prevent ringworm. Socks and underwear should be changed at least once each day, and skin should be kept clean and dry as much as possible. Feet should be in breathable shoes as much as possible to alleviate sweating, but you should avoid walking barefoot in public showers or locker rooms. Maintaining short, clean toenails will also help to reduce the risk of ringworm fungi from growing on the feet.

Towels, clothes, sheets and other items should not be shared with an individual with ringworm until they are no longer contagious. You should also avoid handling pets with ringworm, or should try to wash hands immediately after petting them. Vacuuming and disinfecting areas commonly used by an infected pet will also help to prevent spores of the fungus from spreading. Those with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDs, those taking medications after an organ transplant and individuals going through cancer treatment, should not handle animals that are known to have ringworm.