What is Ringworm?
Medically known as ‘tinea’, it is a fungal infection that can be seen on the skin, nails or scalp. This common infection affects people of all ages, but children are more susceptible to it. It is highly contagious and easily spread among people via close contact or sharing infected objects. Transmission of ringworm is also possible through contact with animals, such as dogs and cats.
Who is prone to ringworm infection?
While anyone can catch the infection, very old or very young are at the higher risk. People with weak immunity or those who are taking medicines that suppress immunity are also more likely to develop it. Fungal infections mostly develops on moist skin, which is why people who sweat a lot have a higher risk of being vulnerable.
What causes ringworm infection?
Even though the name suggests so, it is not caused by a worm. The only reason it is called ringworm is because it is shaped like a ring. The infection is caused by fungi called dermatophyte, which lives on keratin – a tissue found in skin, nails and hair. As these fungi can survive for months on the body, in soil or any object, you can easily catch the infection. Ringworm can be spread in the following ways:
- Direct contact with an infected person
- Contact with infected animals like cat and dog
- Contact with traces of the fungus in the soil
- Contact with an object that has been contaminated like a towel, combs, and beddings
Skin conditions like psoriasis, Athlete’s foot or a jock itch is also a type of ringworm and preventing these conditions will help you to avoid the infection as well.
Symptoms of Ringworm
The incubation period of this condition on the body is 4-10 days and about 10-14 days for the scalp. It may not appear in the shape of a ring on the face or neck and usually resemble itchy rashes that are dry, scaly, and appear swollen. On all other parts of the body, if you see a ring-like red rash that is itchy and inflamed and appears to dry in a couple of days, it can be the ringworm infection.
Diagnosis of Ringworm
If you do not see any improvement or change in the ringworm infection even after using antifungal creams, you may want to consult a doctor. Your GP will be able to diagnose the infection simply by looking at your symptoms. In case they aren’t sure, a sample of the affected area can be taken for analysis in a laboratory.
How to prevent ringworm infection?
It is important that you stop the ringworm infection from spreading. Maintaining good personal hygiene is the key to keeping it at bay. Here are some other tips to prevent the infection from spreading further:
- Dry your body thoroughly after a shower as the fungi breeds in moist and warm areas, especially near toes or breasts.
- Avoid tight fitted clothing as they may aggravate the ringworm infection further due to chafing and rubbing. Use cotton and other breathable fabrics when suffering from the infection.
- Resist scratching the rashes as the infection can spread through your fingers to the other parts of the body.
- Cover the infected area with a bandage at all times to prevent the fluid from oozing out and spreading the ringworm infection to other parts.
Different ringworm treatments available
Treatment depends on the body part that has been affected. It may reduce or heal within a year without treatment but there is a risk of it turning into a chronic skin infection. Hence, it is best to use topical treatments to minimise the infection. Here are some effective solutions for ringworm:
Over-the-counter antifungal creams, gels, sprays or nail lacquers can be used for relief. You can directly apply these onto the affected area twice a day to reduce the symptoms. Most of the medications take around two weeks to heal the infection. Natural topical solutions are also available for the treatment of ringworm infection. These products contain natural ingredients such as aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, or coconut oil that can help to eliminate and combat the condition.
Another option is to use essential oils such as tea tree oil, myrrh or lavender, oregano or lemongrass oil for managing the scalp ringworm infections.
In case of a scalp infection, antifungal shampoos can be used to prevent infection from spreading. Antifungal shampoos are available over-the-counter and can be used twice a week. It must be noted that shampoos aren’t a treatment for this type of ringworm.
Antifungal soaps help protect the skin from many different types of infections. They cleanse the skin thoroughly and may even act as hand sanitisers. Choose natural or herbal antifungal soaps as they are known to have no unwanted side effects and potentially soothe the skin.
If the infection is widespread, you might need to take antifungal medicines orally for quick relief. Oral medications are mostly recommended in the case of a scalp infection as creams can't kill the fungus in the hair shaft. Terbinafine, itraconazole, and griseofulvin are some medicines that your doctor can prescribe you for the scalp. Griseofulvin isn’t recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women and Terbinafine is not suitable for people with a history of liver disease or lupus.
The Final Word
While you are taking treatment for ringworm infection, you must ensure that you keep the affected areas clean and dry. In most cases, it can be reduced and treated with the help of antifungal or topical ointments and creams. It is possible to find a wide range of natural solutions for ringworm infection that reduce your risk of any further unwanted side effects and help provide relief from the condition.