Annoying rashes have developed on your skin and refuse to go away. A couple of days later you are told that they aren’t any ordinary rashes. What you have is ringworm! Don’t worry, you have not been impregnated by aliens, nor will you become a mutant with superpowers. Ringworm is a common thing and it has nothing to do with worms.
What Is Ringworm
Ringworm, also known as tinea, is a fungal infection that develops on the top of your skin. It got its name from its vaguely circular shape reminiscent of a wavy worm. The exact shape of the rash varies depending on its location on your body. Most commonly it has an oval-shaped ring with slightly raised borders. Sometimes the interior of the ring can be clear, while other times it is crisscrossed with red bumps.
Although a nuisance, ringworm is not dangerous, and normally goes away with proper treatment, say within a couple of weeks. If left unchecked, however, they can get infected which bacteria and require antibiotics.
How Do You Get Ringworm
Ringworm is caused by fungal parasites that live on the skin’s outer cells. It is a contagious disease.
The infection targets both humans and animals alike, and it spreads by direct contact with the infected. It can also spread via objects used by the infected. In some rare cases, it can also spread in the soil.
Because of the fact that the infection targets both humans and household animals, it is very difficult to prevent it from spreading. Thus, children are particularly liable to be infected. On top of this, ringworm also enjoys narrow stretches of sweaty areas, so athletes and obese persons are also likely victims. A successful prevention requires education of children and adults, be it infected or not.
If you are infected, you should avoid contact with others. Also, you have to resist the urge to touch and scratch the rashes as it will only spread them further across your body. You should avoid sharing with others objects that you have touched, such as footwear or clothes. Children should be told to avoid contact with unknown persons or animals as much as possible.
There are several different types of fungal skin infections that belong to the tinea family. While similar in appearance, they are differentiated by the location and the shape of the rash. The most common is ringworm of the body, ringworm of the scalp, athlete’s foot, and jock itch.
Ringworm of the Body
Also known as tinea corporis, it is recognizable for the red rings that form on top of the skin, from which the common name of the ailment is derived. Sometimes it can form several rings overlapping each other.
Initially, it only forms a flat red patch on your skin. But as time progresses, the borders of the patch begin to slightly rise up to form a ring. This type of ringworm can infect humans, dogs, cats, and cows. It can spread by contact with the objects touched by the infected as well.
To minimize the chances of catching the infection, several steps should be undertaken as follows:
- Wash hands regularly and keep the places you share with others clean (school, gym, or work).
- Avoid contact with animals missing part of their coat of fur.
- Minimize sweating by dressing according to the weather.
- Don’t lend or borrow personal items.
Treating ringworm of the body is not difficult. In case over-the-counter treatments don’t work, prescription-strength anti-fungus medication will usually do the trick. In more severe cases, doctors would prescribe antifungal pills. Ringworm of the body particularly targets people with a weakened immune system, so people with HIV/AIDS may find it difficult to avoid or get rid of.
Ringworm of the Scalp
This type of ringworm is caused by several varieties of the fungi called Dermatophytes. It also affects the skin’s outer layers. Like that of the body, this ringworm is also highly contagious and takes the form of bald patches on the head. This infection mostly targets toddlers and school-age children.
The usual treatment for ringworm of the scalp is medication taken by mouth to kill the fungi, such as griseofulvin (Gris-Pen) and terbinafine (Lamisil). This treatment may have to be taken regularly for up to six weeks. In conjunction with the prescription, medical shampoos should be used to remove the spores and prevent further spread of infection across the body.
Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot develops in between toes. It takes the shape of a scaly red rash that can develop blisters or ulcers. The moccasin variety of athlete’s foot causes dryness and scaling of the soles which slowly spreads to the sides of the foot. Because of its appearance, it can be mistaken for eczema.
The prevention of athlete’s foot primarily demands taking care of your feet: Keeping them dry, changing socks twice a day, wearing light well-ventilated shoes, and more. It is advisable to either avoid swimming pools and public showers or to wear your personal water or shower shoes if you have to use them.
The infection can be diagnosed via observation, or in more complicated cases by taking samples of the affected skin for microscopic examination or more comprehensive laboratory tests. Depending on the severity of the infection, the treatment can be over-the-counter antifungal ointments, lotions, or powders. Or, in more serious cases antifungal pills.
Also known as tinea cruris, jock itch attacks the skin of the genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. This type of infection is common in people who sweat a lot and those who are overweight. While it is inconvenient, it is not serious. By keeping the area dry and clean, restraining yourself from scratching it and applying prescribed medication, the infection is likely to go away relatively quickly.
Jocks itch also spreads by contact. Very often it occurs as an extension of athlete’s foot for using the same towel. Men are more likely to get this type of ringworm, especially teenagers and young adults. As with the previous type, tight clothes, heavy sweating, a weak immune system, and diabetes increase the likelihood of catching the infection.
Also similar is the treatment, which is made up of mostly over-the-counter vitamins, powders, sprays, or antifungal pills (for the severe cases). To prevent the infection, it is recommended to keep the groin area dry, wearing clean clothes that are not too tight, and refrain from sharing personal items.
How do you get ringworm? A concise answer would be a mixture of bad luck, bad personal hygiene, and bad fashion choices (at least for your health). None of those things are set in stone, and with time and wise decisions, you can easily defeat the ringworm infection.