Ringworm can be caused by three different types of fungi – epidermophyton, microsporum, and trichophyton. It can affect both animals and humans and is commonly transmitted through direct physical contact. It can also be spread by sharing clothes and personal items with an infected person. Ringworm is more frequent among children than adults with one influential study finding that ringworm fungus was found on 7 percent of the children in a major city school system. Read on to find out how to recognize and treat ringworm.
The infection usually manifests in the form of a red or silver rash. The rash can be itchy, swollen, dry, or scaly. Usually, the rash patches are ring-shaped with red borders. It is also common to have multiple rashes concentrated in a single area. Over time, ringworm patches may start to ooze or turn into blisters.
It is worth noting that any area of the body can be affected. Depending on where it happens, ringworm has different names.
Types of Ringworm
There are four basic types of ringworm, commonly known as ringworm of the body, ringworm of the scalp, athlete’s foot, and jock itch. Here’s a brief explanation of each.
- Tinea corporis (body ringworm). This type affects the torso and is usually manifested in ring-shaped patches where the outer ring is darker than the center.
- Tinea capitis (scalp ringworm). This type of ringworm affects the scalp. In the initial stages, tinea capitis takes the form of small sores. As the condition progresses, the sores transform into scaly bald patches accompanied by itch.
- Tinea Pedis (athlete’s foot). The most common cause of athlete’s foot is walking barefoot in a locker room, swimming pool, or public shower.
- Tinea Cruris (jock itch). This type usually appears on the inner thighs, buttocks, and groin area. It manifests in the shape of dark patches. It can be accompanied by itching and burning sensations.
The most common way to diagnose ringworm is by skin examination. Your doctor might also use a black light to examine your skin. Under black light, the affected areas will glow, thus signifying ringworm infection. Additionally, you might be required to go through some tests, such as a skin biopsy, fungal culture, or KOH exam. In the case of KOH exam, the doctor will submerge a sample of your skin in potassium hydroxide (KOH) to tell whether it’s a fungal infection or other skin disorders.
If you’ve been wondering how to treat ringworm, the good news is that there are numerous ways to do it. The bad news is that it may take a considerable amount of time to get rid of completely. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most widely used methods.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
Even if it may seem logical at first to keep the ringworm tightly covered and bandaged, it is not a good idea. Bandages and tight clothing lock the moisture inside and impede the healing process. Instead, you should let the rash breathe. Wear comfy clothes and let air circulate around the rash. That way, it will heal faster.
Don’t Stay in Wet Underwear
If there’s one thing that ringworms like, it is moisture. Moisture helps them thrive and spread. If you sweat a lot (i.e. do physically hard work or exercise), make sure you change into fresh and dry underwear regularly. This goes for the socks, as well. When showering, use antifungal soap. After the shower, apply antifungal lotion or powder.
Use Antifungal Topical Cream
Oftentimes, ringworm infection can be treated successfully with over-the-counter antifungals. Go to your local drugstore or an online store and buy an antifungal lotion, cream, or powder. Before applying, make sure to thoroughly clean the affected area and let it dry completely.
When it’s dry, apply the topical as prescribed. Make sure to spread a thin layer of the cream/lotion beyond the affected area (some 2-3cm) and let the skin absorb the medication entirely before putting your clothes on.
Wash Your Hair with Antifungal Shampoo
In case you have ringworm on your scalp (tinea capitis), you should buy an antifungal shampoo. Shampoos formulated to combat ringworm stop the growth of the fungus so that your immune system can take over and get rid of it. Additionally, many of them also kill bacteria and soothe inflammation.
You can find antifungal shampoo in grocery stores and drugstores. Your best bet is a shampoo with active ingredients such as ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, or selenium sulfide. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package. That being said, antifungal shampoo is best used in combination with oral medication.
Wash the Bedding Regularly
If you have ringworm, make sure to wash or change your sheets daily. If you sleep in the same linen several nights in a row, you will only prolong the time it takes to solve the issue and get rid of the infection. Due to it being highly contagious, ringworm can affect your partner if you share the same bedding.
To speed up the healing process, you should wash all your clothes regularly. Use hot water and soap. You can also use Borax and bleach in addition to the detergent. These two (bleach and borax) are very effective at killing fungal spores.
Thanks to its antifungal and antimicrobial properties, coconut oil can help you in ringworm treatment. It is best used as an ingredient in topical creams and antifungal shampoos because it is a good natural hair conditioner.
If you opt to use coconut oil, you should first warm it up until it becomes liquid. Then, apply it to the part of the skin that’s affected by ringworm. Let the skin absorb it completely before putting your clothes on. Make sure you apply the oil a minimum of three times a day.
Tea Tree Oil
This is one of the oldest methods for treating fungal and bacterial infections. Native Australians were the first to use it for medical purposes. Tea tree oil remains as one of the most popular as well as effective treatments for fungal skin infections (including ringworm).
Like the other oils and creams, tea tree oil should be applied directly to the affected area. Apply it two to three times a day. If you have sensitive skin, make sure to mix it with coconut oil to avoid irritation.
Turmeric is another efficient way to combat fungal infection. Grind fresh turmeric (turmeric spice powder will do, as well) and add some water. Mix the two until you get a paste. Apply the paste to the affected areas of your skin and let it dry completely. Turmeric tea and turmeric water can also be taken orally.
Apple Cider Vinegar
You can also use apple cider vinegar to combat ringworm rashes. First, pour some vinegar into a glass or bowl. Soak a cotton ball in the vinegar and brush the affected areas of your skin. Do it two to three times a day.
Aloe vera has many health benefits and can also be used for treating fungal and bacterial infections. It is commonly available as aloe vera gels and as an ingredient in antifungal ointments and creams. Make sure to apply the gel or cream at a minimum of three times a day.
Ringworm is not something that should be overlooked and ignored. If you notice ringworm patches on your skin, apply some of the remedies described in this article and schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
It is essential to act quickly to prevent it from spreading, as well as to minimize the chances of transmitting the infection to your partner or other family members and friends.
If you have ringworm, make sure to maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Also, refrain from sharing personal items such as brushes, towels, and clothes with other people.