Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is a fungal infection. It occurs on the skin, or on the scalp, and is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. It is a very common infection and can spread very easily.
What Causes Ringworm?
Ringworm is a contagious infection that, despite what the name suggests, is not caused by a worm. It is caused by the fungus Tinea.
What are the Symptoms of Ringworm?
As ringworm can appear on any part of your body, the symptoms can vary, depending on which part is affected. Common symptoms include:
- Ring-shaped rashes
- Scaly and cracked skin
- Hair loss
What are the Risk Factors of Ringworm?
The chances of you being infected by ringworm are high if you:
- Live in a place with a warm climate.
- Have a weak immune system.
- Participate in close-contact sports (like wrestling).
- Share personal items with many people.
When Should You Visit a doctor?
You should see a doctor if your symptoms do not clear up or do not respond to treatment within two weeks. You should also go to a doctor if you are likely spread it to others, such as if you’re a teacher.
In some cases, ringworm will not respond to home remedies or OTC treatments. Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal topical ointment or an oral medication.
Seven Effective Home Remedies for Treating Ringworm
Home remedies are the first line of defense against a ringworm infection. They are easy to implement. Some effective home remedies are given below:
- Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is known to be a great antifungal ingredient. To use this remedy to treat ringworm, soak a cotton pad in undiluted apple cider vinegar, and wipe the affected area. Repeat this thrice every day.
- Aloe vera gel
Among the many health benefits of aloe vera gel, ringworm treatment comes particularly handy. This is due to the fact that aloe vera gel possesses efficient antifungal and antibacterial properties. Apply aloe vera gel on the affected area thrice a day. Additionally, due to aloe vera’s cooling properties, it helps alleviate itching and swelling.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil has certain fatty acids that damage the membranes of fungal cells, which may result in their instant death. Coconut oil can be used as both treatment and prevention. If you have a ringworm sore, treat it by applying liquid coconut oil to the area. If you use coconut oil as part of your skincare or hair-care routine, you can prevent fungal infections in the future.
Turmeric is one of the major ingredients used in traditional Indian home remedies. Turmeric has a compound called curcumin, which has antimicrobial properties, and its anti-inflammatory abilities help alleviate symptoms of ringworm.
To treat this infection, you can use turmeric as a topical application or as an oral ingredient. Add turmeric to tea, milk, or meals to reap benefits through ingestion. To use it as an external application, mix a tablespoon of turmeric with water or oil, and apply the paste to the affected area. After it dries up completely, rinse it with warm water and pat dry the area.
- Licorice root
Licorice root is extensively used in traditional Chinese medicine, as it exhibits anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Ringworm infections can be effectively treated using powdered licorice root. Mix three tablespoons of powdered licorice root with water, and bring the solution to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Let it cool until it becomes a paste. Apply this mixture to the affected area every day.
- Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a common remedy used by native Australians, especially for fungal and bacterial infections. Mix twelve drops of tea tree essential oils with an ounce of any cold-pressed carrier oil to prepare a 2% dilution. Apply this mixture to the affected patch of your skin thrice a day.
- Oil of oregano
The oil of oregano consists of wild oregano, which contains thymol and carvacrol. These two compounds have antifungal properties. The oil of oregano is highly effective in treating ringworm. Mix this oil with a carrier oil, and apply it to the affected area. Do this thrice every day to reap maximum benefits.
Treating Ringworm Using Prescribed Medication, and OTC Treatments
If the infection is on the skin of your body, doctors will recommend OTC antifungal creams, lotions, and powders for topical application. If the infection is on your scalp, you can use special antifungal shampoos to rid your scalp of the fungal particles. You can easily find these products in most drugstores. Make sure these products contain at least one of the following ingredients:
Sometimes, your body may not respond to topical medication as much as you expect it to. If your infection is severe, and/or if it is in multiple parts of your body, you may be required to take additional oral medication to treat them. Some of these medications are:
- Griseofulvin: This medication is administered for about 8 to 10 weeks. While it is extremely effective in treating ringworm, it also has various side effects. A birth defect is one of the most alarming side effects of this medication. Women should not take it if they are pregnant or planning to conceive in the near future. Other mild side effects include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and indigestion. Ensure that you do not drink alcohol when you are on this medication.
- Terbinafine: Unlike griseofulvin, terbinafine does not have any serious side effects. Some after-effects include nausea, diarrhea, rashes, and indigestion. Fortunately, these effects do not last long and are mild in nature. Ensure that your doctor is aware of all your health records as this tablet cannot be administered to people who have lupus and/or liver problems.
- Itraconazole: Among the three pills that are usually given to ringworm patients, itraconazole has the shortest duration of about 7 to 15 days. Similar to terbinafine, this medication cannot be administered to people with liver conditions. Additionally, old people and children cannot take this tablet. Reactions to this tablet include nausea, headache, and indigestion.
Tips to Prevent Ringworm From Spreading
Ringworm is a highly contagious condition and can spread from one person to another very easily. It can also spread to other parts of your own body easily. Follow the hygienic lifestyle tips mentioned below to avoid spreading it further:
- Wear breathable clothing
You might think that covering up the affected area or bandaging it is the best way to prevent spreading it, but doing so locks in moisture and slows down the healing process. Wear loose clothes, preferably made of cotton or other natural fabrics. This facilitates airflow and prevents the condition from worsening. Additionally, make sure you change your clothes at least once every day, as wearing the same clothes for more than a day can worsen symptoms.
- Change your sheets every day
Just like you must change your clothes every day, you must replace your bedsheets, and pillow covers every day. As ringworm is very contagious, the fungal spores transfer to your sheets. If you sleep in these contaminated sheets every night, it can increase symptoms and spread the infection to other parts of your body, as well as to other people you share your bed with.
- Use antifungal products
Sometimes ringworm can develop on the scalp, causing severe hair fall and itchiness in the affected area. It can also cause dandruff and scalp boils. To avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body and to alleviate symptoms, use an over-the-counter, antifungal shampoo. Look for ingredients such as ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, etc. These ingredients kill the microbes and reduce inflammation. For other parts of the body, you can use antifungal soap bars. After taking a bath, dry thoroughly and apply antifungal powder or cream to the affected area.
While antifungal products can drastically reduce symptoms, they may not fully cure the condition without the help of oral medication.
Other tips to prevent ringworm from spreading
- Don’t share personal items such as towels, combs, clothes, and pillows.
- Replace your personal items periodically.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching a public utility.
- Wash affected areas every day and dry thoroughly. Pay special attention to skin folds, feet, groin, and the area between your toes.
- Change your wet underwear and socks immediately. If you usually sweat a lot during the day, ensure that the affected area is clean and dry. This is more important for people who are suffering from an infection in the groin and feet area. Ensure your skin is dry and clean before wearing fresh underwear and/or socks.
- Use antifungal products to keep flare-ups at bay.
- Do not scratch the affected parts of the body. Scratching can help spread the condition to other parts of your body and also aggravate your itch.
- While washing bed sheets and clothes, use hot water and a strong detergent. Hot water kills the fungal particles immediately. Nevertheless, as a safety measure, use strong detergents, preferably containing bleach or borax, to thoroughly clean the fabric.
- If you have not identified the cause of your condition, and if a pet has missing patches of fur, there is a good chance that your pet is affected by ringworm. In such a case, take your pet to a veterinarian for treatment.
- Make others aware of your condition. This can help them take adequate precautions.
Ringworm may not be a life-threatening infection, but it is important to get it diagnosed and treated immediately. This can prevent the infection from spreading to other parts. It also reduces the intensity and frequency of flare-ups. Fortunately, ringworm can mostly be completely treated within two weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the different methods of transmission of ringworm?
Ringworm can be transmitted by animals, objects, soil, and other humans through direct and indirect contact. Proper hygiene and cleanliness can prevent transmission.
Is ringworm completely curable?
While ringworm is a highly contagious and uncomfortable infection, it is treatable if you follow treatment plans recommended by your doctor. Maintaining proper routines of hygiene and sanitization can help keep it in control.
Does ringworm have any complications?
As ringworm is an infection that does not spread under the surface of the skin, there are no complications that can arise from acquiring it. However, if you have a serious health condition such as AIDS, you may find it difficult to rid yourself of the infection.
What are the types of ringworm?
Ringworm infections are classified based on the body part affected. They are athlete’s foot, jock itch, scalp ringworm, nail infection, and body ringworm.