Ringworm, which is sometimes called tinea or serpigo, is a fungal infection that shows up on the skin. The fungus causes a rash on the skin that has a raised, reddish-brown appearance that is usually bumpy. Sometimes the centre of the rash is lighter in colour and surrounded by red, scaly rings, giving it the appearance of a worm living underneath the skin. The rash can be found on any area of the body, but it appears different in certain areas. For instance, on the scalp the condition will begin as a small pimple and will grow into a scaly bald patch. If any hair remains in the infected area, it will become brittle and often break. Ringworm of the feet is often called “athlete’s foot,” and looks like scaling, peeling skin, often between the toes. Ringworm can also affect the fingernails and toenails, where it causes them to become brittle, thick and discoloured. The skin condition often attacks the groin area, and when it does it is called “jock itch.”
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The Spreading of Ringworm
The fungus that causes ringworm is spread through both direct and indirect contact. Most people get ringworm by touching someone who has it. Others get the fungus from touching surfaces that have been in contact with someone who has ringworm. Common surfaces that spread the fungus include bedding, stuffed toys, clothing, hats, hair accessories and gym mats. Ringworm can also be spread from infected pets, and this can be difficult to prevent, since ringworm on a pet may be hidden under the animal’s fur. The rash does not occur immediately. If the fungus attacks the skin, it will appear 4 to 10 days after contact. If it attacks the scalp, it will appear 10 to 14 days after contact.
The Prevention and Treatment of Ringworm
The best way to prevent ringworm is to practice good hygiene. You should wash your hands frequently, particularly after being in contact with animals that could carry the infection. If you are going to shower in a public facility, wear shower shoes, and avoid walking barefoot outside of your home. If you suspect that you have ringworm, contact your doctor to confirm the diagnosis, particularly if you have the red, scaly patches, as these can be other more serious conditions. If it is ringworm, treat the condition with an anti-fungal cream. These can be purchased over the counter or through a prescription. Jock itch or athlete’s foot cream can be used to treat ringworm no matter where it appears on the body. Look for a cream that contains an active anti-fungal ingredient such as clotrimazole, miconazole, ketoconazole, or terbinafine.
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