Ringworm In Pregnancy

Ringworm in pregnancy is not an unusual occurrence and may not harm an unborn baby. The infection is best diagnosed by your doctor and treated with medication that is safe for you and your baby.

Overview

Ringworm affects both humans and animals. A ringworm infection can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time even during pregnancy. It can be a major concern for pregnant women who often wonder if the infection can affect the baby.

Ringworm is also known as tinea or dermatophytosis and is a common fungal infection that affects the scalp, skin, or nails of humans. It can show up on various parts of the body depending on the type of ringworm infection. The scalp, face, beard, hands, legs, groin, feet and trunk of the body can be infected. This skin infection is contagious and can easily spread to other parts of the body or to another person. But it cannot spread deep into the body and harm the fetus.

A ringworm infection may become contagious as soon as the first symptoms appear. Most people do not notice the early symptoms until it begins to get worse. It is necessary to get treated by a doctor right away to avoid spreading the fungus to others.

The risk of infecting others reduces significantly in people who are treated within 24 hours of the first signs of ringworm. Left untreated, the infection can last for months while possibly spreading to others.

The most common types of ringworm are as follows, and each of them may be identified based on the area of the body it appears. Ringworm of the body (Tinea Corporis) may be seen on the skin more often than others.

Common Types of Ringworm

  • Ringworm of the body (Tinea corporis)
  • Ringworm of the face (Tinea faciei)
  • Athlete's foot (Tinea pedis)
  • Ringworm of the scalp (Tinea capitis)
  • Ringworm of the beard (Tinea barbae)
  • Jock itch (Tinea cruris—affects the groin, buttocks or inner thighs)

Symptoms of Ringworm in Pregnancy

The symptoms of ringworm in pregnancy are the same as for other people. The common signs are as follows. They may be subtle at first, but then become increasingly noticeable as the infection spreads on the skin:

  • A flat, circular patch that is reddish-brownish in color
  • Patch appears as a scaly rash and may itch or be inflamed
  • The circle of rash grows wider and tiny bumps appear
  • Other similar patches may appear
  • The edge of the circle or ‘ring’ seems raised
  • Patches of hair loss (ringworm of the scalp and beard)
  • Bald spot may look scaly

Causes of Ringworm in Pregnancy

Three main types of fungi, Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trichophyton, cause ringworm. They are spores that live in the soil and transfer on contact with humans or animals.

How Does Ringworm Spread?

Ringworm can be easily spread from the soil to human and animals. It then continues to spread from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact. It also transfers from infected animals to humans, for example, from an infected pet. People, including pregnant women, can get ringworm indirectly from using personal care items that have the fungus on them. Examples are combs, hairbrushes, clothing, towels, and bedding.

Children are more at risk of the infection because it can easily spread amongst children during play with peers. People with a weakened immune system are also susceptible because their body is less able to fight off a bacterial, viral or fungal attack.

Pregnancy does not increase the risk of infection. Further, because the fungus lives on the dead tissues on the outer layer of skin, it cannot spread into the body and harm a fetus.

When to See a Doctor

Pregnant women should always consult a doctor before treating any infection, including ringworm. Do this even if you feel certain it is this type of skin infection and was told you can treat it with certain medications or home remedies.

Treatment for Ringworm in Pregnancy

A mild ringworm infection may go away on its own after several months. But the risk of it becoming severe or infecting others during this time makes it necessary to get treated. Your doctor will examine your skin and may even do a skin test or skin biopsy to verify you do in fact have ringworm and to rule out other conditions.

When deciding to treat you, you may be asked how long you had the infection and whether others in your household or social environment are infected. Your doctor may also want to know if you received any type of treatment before.

Is Ringworm Medication Safe During Pregnancy?

This is a common question asked by pregnant mothers out of concern for protecting their unborn child. While some types of ringworm medication may be safe to treat the infection, it may not be safe for use in pregnancy. In deciding to treat you, your doctor’s primary concern will be prescribing a medication that is safe to use during pregnancy to avoid any risk of harm to your unborn child. Treatment may be on a case-by-case basis and may depend on the stage of your pregnancy and medical history.

Over-The-Counter Medications: Ringworm can be easily treated with non-prescription medicines. A mild infection can more likely be treated this way. Antifungal creams, gels or ointments containing Clotrimazole falls under Category B of the FDA classes of drugs. This means there is no evidence to establish a risk of harm during pregnancy. Applying the antifungal twice a day for a period specified by your doctor helps cure the infection. Your doctor may advise you to continue using the medication for a while after the symptoms clear to prevent them from coming back.

Prescription Medications: Stronger medication is usually needed to treat a severe infection. Antifungal creams containing nystatin and triamcinolone are classed as FDA category B drugs. While they are found safe for use in pregnant women, a risk of harm is not ruled out. The creams can effectively treat ringworm when applied to the skin twice daily for a specified length of time. Carefully follow all instructions on the prescription label to clear the infection and avoid unwanted side effects.

Warnings

Many medications are not indicated for use in pregnancy. Do not take any medication, especially Griseofulvin (a common prescription medication for severe ringworm), without speaking with your doctor. Your doctor will determine a treatment that is best for you. Griseofulvin is not approved by the FDA for use in pregnancy due to a potential risk of harm to an unborn child.

Home remedies or natural remedies, such as herbal treatments, should not be used while you are pregnant. Although others may use them, there may be no scientific evidence to prove their safe use during pregnancy.

Prevention

  • Avoid itching the infected area.
  • Practice good hygiene (washing hands and body with soap and water often).
  • Keep skin clean and dry (especially areas prone to trapping water or sweat such as between the toes).
  • Do not share personal care items such as towel or combs with an infected person.
  • Avoid wearing wet or damp clothing (fungi thrive in moist conditions).
  • Keep away from people who have ringworm.
  • Keep pets clean and pet areas disinfected.
  • Have infected pets treated immediately.