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What is Ringworm?

Amy Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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It's red, scaly, itchy and looks like it has a red halo around it. Is it Lyme Disease? No, chances are, it's only ringworm.

Ringworm (tinea) is a very common fungal skin condition caused by dermatophytes. It is most common in children, but can affect anyone. It usually has nothing to do with personal hygiene or lack thereof.

Ringworm is common because it is so very contagious. A person can get it from direct contact with another person or a pet, or by touching something an infected person has touched. It is less commonly contracted from soil, but it can happen. Children tend to be affected most frequently, since they are usually in closer contact with each other than adults. The most common forms of the fungus in adults are probably athlete's foot and jock itch. Some people also have it under their nails.

Most people who have the fungus don't know where or how they got it. The infection appears 10 to 14 days after exposure, usually as a small, itchy pimple. It is usually ignored until it gets worse. In fact, it is the intense itching that often sends people to the doctor or drugstore for relief. If it progresses to the "halo" stage, the sufferer may think he or she has some horrible disease, but the comforting reality is that ringworm is generally easy to cure. Drugstores are full of over-the-counter remedies for it, athlete's foot and jock itch.

A sufferer should look for topical creams or sprays that have miconazole or clotrimazole as an active ingredient. These are both fungicides. Many products also have an itch reliever, but the sufferer may want to get something separate for the itching, as well. If symptoms persist for more than four weeks, a person should go to a physician. The doctor can prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication that will usually take care of the problem.

Ringworm can be prevented. Athletes should wear shower shoes in the shower rooms. Parents and teachers should clean gym or sleeping mats after each use, and should have family pets treated for the fungus. People should also not share headgear of any kind. The fungus is annoying, but rarely serious.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at The Health Board. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon110934 — On Sep 14, 2010

Ringworm in my scalp turned to be a serious issue. It took two months for me to figure out what's into my head. Then the long four weeks of oral antibiotics with ketoconazole turned not to be successful. Now I am on itraconazole 400 mg/day. Lost so much hair, instead I got thinning, which as I read, can become bald areas soon. So to me this was the most terrible disease I have ever dealt with.

By GenevaMech — On Jul 26, 2010

@ anon2030- The best way to prevent ringworm from recurring after you get rid of ringworm is to follow a few procedures when you are most at risk of contracting ringworm.

If you work in places where you sweat a lot (i.e. kitchens, construction, boiler room, etc) use a talcum based foot and body powder. Staying dry is important. Also, make sure you switch out shoes, and always wash your workout clothes. Wear sandals in communal showers, as the article stated, and use fresh towels. Try to work out in well-ventilated areas so that sweat will evaporate, and shower after every workout.

Things like athletes foot are annoying, but with proper precautions, they are easily preventable.

By parmnparsley — On Jul 26, 2010

@ Anon2030- I read somewhere that the tinea fungus is present on the skin of almost everyone. It is usually not present in large amounts, and the immune system usually controls it easily, but certain conditions can make it worse.

Moist conditions can promote growth, and sharing things like towels, or walking on contaminated floors can spread the fungus. This is why athletes, manual laborers, and anyone who works and sweats can suffer from ringworm. Dandruff is a form of ringworm, as is jock itch, athlete’s foot, and thick nails.

Ringworm treatment is simple, but it can always be contagious when it is present. You can spread it from one area of your body to another or from person to person.

By anon2030 — On Jun 24, 2007

how long does it take for ringworm to not be contagious?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at The Health Board...
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