Ringworm: How to Identify and Treat this Common Fungal Infection

Despite being a problem which affects around 20% of American’s at some point during their lifetime, ringworm, or tinea as it is medically known, is still a widely misunderstood ailment. Caused by a type of fungi called dermatophytes, there’s a wide range of conditions it can cause, dependent upon which area of the body it affects.

From ringworm in the scalp (Tinea Capitis) to athletes foot (Tinea Pedis), any part of your skin can potentially contract the infection. While the condition has nothing to do with any type of worm, we explain below everything you need to know about this intimidatingly-named skin complaint.

Distinctive Markings

As with any health problems, identifying and treating ringworm in its infancy will make curing it much simpler. The main symptom is a circular red rash which has a whitened inner, creating the appearance of a ring. This rash can often take on a silvery color rather than red and will spread over a reasonably large area if left untreated.

The early stages of an infection will leave the infected area feeling itchy, possibly with a light burning sensation present too. As time passes, the surrounding skin will become dry and flaky while the rash may either rise or remain flat to the surface of the skin. What will develop is the level of itching and a scaling of the skin at the infected site.

How Does Ringworm Spread?

Passed through contact, ringworm is incredibly contagious. What can make it even more so is the scratching of infected areas, an action which releases spores into the surrounding area. Animals too are susceptible to ringworm and it’s estimated that between 20 to 50% of cases are transmitted through a pet.

Because ringworm is caused by a fungus, it can also be present in everyday objects such as clothes and furniture. To solve any problem you’re experiencing, the fungus will have to be removed from all areas of your home.

While this may seem a daunting and expensive undertaking, there are in fact many quick and simple ways to remove ringworm from materials and jewelry.


Once it’s been spotted, ringworm can be easily remedied. As a type of fungi, the dermatophytes require a warm and humid environment to exist. Because of this, regular washing and maintaining dry skin at infected areas will greatly help. Further to this, there’s a wide range of OTC products which can be used to remove the infection, including:

  • Creams
  • Sprays
  • Powders
  • Orally-taken medication
  • Anti-fungal shampoo

While the best method of taking application can depend on the area of your body ringworm is present, all treatments have one thing in common. The medication should be applied for a minimum of two to three weeks, ensuring that the infection is completely eradicated. Within 48 hours of treatment being started, the rashes typically lose their infectiousness. For cases which are more severe or if you’re not certain of the diagnosis, you should always seek medical advice. For the vast majority of ringworm infections, however, it can be quickly and easily solved with readily available medication.

Photo by Niels_Olson