Ringworm sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? While the name may evoke images of slimy parasites, worms don’t actually have anything to do with ringworm.
The medical term for ringworm is tinea corporis, and it’s a superficial skin infection caused by fungi called dermatophytes. Dermatophytes feed on keratin, which is found in the outer layer of skin, nails, and hair, and they can attack many different parts of the body including the feet (athlete’s foot), the groin area (jock itch), the scalp, hair, fingernails, toenails and the hands and palms.
How can you contract ringworm?
Ringworm is very common and occurs in people of all ages. It’s fairly contagious, and can spread from person to person through contact with infected skin areas, or by sharing personal items or clothing. Warm, humid environments like pool surfaces, locker rooms, and tanning beds are also good incubators for the fungi.
On the skin, ringworm begins as a scaly red rash that might first appear as round patches and over time comes to resemble a series of rings with raised, bumpy borders. This is where it gets its name. A doctor should be able to diagnose ringworm easily, either visually or by taking a small skin scraping.
A topical antifungal can usually clear up any skin infections, while ringworm of the scalp or nails will require an oral antifungal.
Tips for preventing ringworm:
- Keep your skin dry and clean, and wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Try to avoid sharing sports equipment, clothing, towels, or bedding.
- Wear flip flops or sandals in locker rooms, pool areas, or public showers.