Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD.
Ringworm is a general term used to describe a
very common type of skin infection. It is not caused by a worm at all but is
actually caused by a fungus. Fungi are extremely small and can only be seen
under a microscope. Fungi are found everywhere and they are contagious. They are
transmitted from other individuals or animals. They can also be found in towels,
carpet, bedding, showers, and baths. Ringworm is much more common in hot, humid
weather. The diagnosis of ringworm can usually be made by its typical appearance
on the skin. In unusual cases, a small scraping of an affected area can be
examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. Ringworm is curable but
takes 2–4 weeks of treatment, sometimes
Living With Your
Ringworm can occur anywhere
on the body. On the skin, ringworm starts as slightly raised, red-tobrown round
patches that itch. Ringworm is categorized by where it
• Tinea corporis: ringworm of
• Tinea pedis: ringworm of
the feet (athlete’s foot).
Tinea capitis: ringworm of the scalp. This type of ringworm requires treatment
with prescription medications; over-the-counter antifungal medications will
usually not cure tinea capitis. As the patch enlarges a central clearing
develops. Small blisters can occur with ringworm of the groin or feet. Itching
is common and can be severe. Scratching can cause secondary infection.
cases of ringworm can be treated with overthe- counter medications. Apply a
small amount of antifungal cream, ointment, or powder to affected areas two
times a day. Continue for 7 days after the areas have healed. If itching is
severe, use calamine lotion twice a day. Aveeno Oatmeal bath can also help
relieve itching. Benadryl taken by mouth every 4–6 hours is also helpful.
If ringworm is not responsive to over-the-counter medicines, your doctor can
prescribe a more potent cream to apply to the skin. Continue to use this for 7
days after the infection appears to be resolved to prevent recurrences. In
severe cases that do not respond to medicine applied to the skin, a medicine
taken by mouth once or twice a day can be used. Take this according to your
doctor’s instructions. Ringworm of the scalp usually requires weeks to
months of treatment with a medication taken by
• Bathe or shower daily.
Gently wash affected areas with a cloth, dry off, then apply cream or ointment.
• Always wear clean, dry clothing.
Cotton or other absorbent clothing is best. Avoid man-made fabrics such as
• Keep moisture away from
skin. It is very important to keep areas infected with ringworm clean and
• Don’t share
towels, clothing, or bedding.
scratching because this can spread the infection or cause secondary
• Avoid wearing clothing
that chafes the skin.
When to Call
• If the rash has not
improved after 2 weeks of
• If signs of a secondary
infection develops such as fever, pus drainage, oozing, crusting, or
• If skin changes occur
such as scarring or bleeding.