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Facts About...


What is it?

Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, hair and nails. The infection causes a rash, which may look ring-shaped and have a raised edge.

How is it spread?

Ringworm commonly spreads from person to person by touch or contact with contaminated items or surfaces. When someone with ringworm touches or scratches the rash, the fungus sticks to the fingers or gets under the fingernails and spreads when that person touches someone else. Ringworm of the scalp can also be spread when combs, hairbrushes or hats are shared. Animals can also have and spread ringworm to humans (cats are common carriers).

What do I look for?

Ringworm appears as a flat, ring-shaped or round rash with a raised edge around it. It most commonly occurs on the scalp, body, groin or feet. It may be itchy, dry and scaly or moist and crusted. When the scalp is infected, sometimes an area of temporary baldness is seen where the hair breaks off slightly above the scalp. Fungal infections on the feet are usually very itchy and cause cracking between the toes (athlete’s foot).

How is it treated?

Your doctor can prescribe ointments or creams which are applied to the infected area, or occasionally a pill. Treatment should be continued for 4 weeks, although you may notice improvement after 2 weeks. Ringworm of the scalp must be treated for at least 4–6 weeks. A child with ringworm can return to school when treatment is started. If a pet is the source, the pet should be seen by a veterinarian and treated as well.

How can I protect myself?

  • Contact your doctor if you think you or your child has ringworm. Check all family members and pets.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizers when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the affected skin.
  • Do not share clothing, hats, combs, brushes, hair ornaments, towels or anything that has contacted the infected area.
  • To help stop the spread to others, people with ringworm should avoid using public swimming pools and cover the affected skin (e.g., wear pants or long-sleeved shirts).
  • Wear sandals or shoes at gyms, lockers and pools.
  • Wash fabrics and soft items in hot water and a hot air dryer to kill the fungus.
  • Hard surfaces may be cleaned with a bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water).

August 2014