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Ringworm (tinea) is a skin infection. Anyone can get it, but it is most common in children. The rash is shaped like a ring and can occur on different parts of your body. It may be called something else if you get it in a certain area. For instance, ringworm on your feet is known as athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). On your inner thighs, groin, or buttocks, it is known as jock itch (tinea cruris).
Symptoms of ringworm
Ringworm can affect one or more parts of your skin. It can even occur on your fingernails and toenails. Symptoms may vary based on the infection’s location. Common symptoms include:
- rash shaped like a ring
- itchy skin
- red, dry, or flaking skin
- swollen, raised, or blistered skin
- loss of hair at the site of the rash.
What causes ringworm?
Fungus is the cause of ringworm. There are about 40 different types of fungi that can produce it. They can live on skin, items, and surfaces, and in warm, damp areas. You can get the infection from other people, like in a school outbreak. Animals, such as pet cats and dogs, can carry and spread fungus.
How is ringworm diagnosed?
See your doctor if you have symptoms of ringworm. They will look at your skin and ask questions. They may scrape off a small piece of skin to check for fungus.
Can ringworm be prevented or avoided?
There are certain things that can increase your risk of getting ringworm. You can help prevent ringworm by doing the following.
- Keep your skin as clean and dry as possible.
- Keep your fingernails and toenails short and clean.
- Do not go barefoot in public areas, such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers.
- Wear shoes that provide airflow.
- Do not wear the same underwear or socks for more than one day.
- Shower right after playing a contact sport, like wrestling, or swimming in a public pool.
- Do not share sports gear with other players. This includes clothing, helmets, shoes, etc.
- Clean household surfaces with antibacterial cleaners.
- Wash your clothes regularly.
- Wash your hands with water and soap after coming in contact with an animal.
- Avoid touching people or pets that have ringworm.
- Do not share items with people who have ringworm.
There are two main types of ringworm treatment. If you have ringworm on your skin, you can use an over-the-counter medicine. This includes antifungal lotion, cream, or powder. The doctor will want you to apply it for 2 to 4 weeks. This may vary based on how bad your symptoms are or if the ringworm has spread. If you have ringworm on your head, you will need to use an antifungal prescription medicine. Your doctor will want you to use it for 1 to 3 months.
Living with ringworm
If ringworm does not go away with medicine or gets worse, contact your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
- How contagious is ringworm?
- How long does it take for ringworm to go away?
- Are there any lasting side effects of ringworm?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.