Ringworm is a miserable thing to have to suffer. It is best described as a fungal infection of the skin and it is most commonly, though not exclusively, contracted by children. There are, however, different ways of treating and preventing ringworm, and we look at them below.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm is less well known than it should be, as it is a serious and very significant condition. Simply put, ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, but if left untreated it spreads and has the potential to cause significant problems for any sufferer. In addition, it is highly contagious, so it is vital that if you are suffering from it, or fear you have it, you take prompt action. Unfortunately, ringworm can appear almost anywhere on the body, so it does require a high degree of vigilance to be sure your body is clear. Usually, it looks like a slightly scaly, red, circular rash, and in some people, it leads to an itching and even a burning sensation.
As it is often found in children, parents need to be especially aware that a rash you might find on your child’s body is or is not ringworm. Due to the contagiousness of ringworm, it is really important that you take actions that limit the spread, perhaps especially within the family, but also in the wider community.
Causes of ringworm
The most common cause of ringworm is being exposed to a fungus known as dermatophytes. As we said, it is unfortunately quite highly contagious and can be spread person to person, but can also be contracted from animals and contaminated surfaces.
Most often, as we say, it is caused by the dermatophytes fungi, and these can be found in a wide number of possible environments. However, you may also catch ringworm from soil, or you may have it transferred from skin or from nails. It may, more rarely, also be passed on from animals, and in some cases warm environments with wet floors and high moisture levels may also cause the fungi to breed and then be passed on. It is therefore highly important to take precautions when around animals or infected people. In addition, washing your hands and avoiding contact with any known infected areas or people is really important as a preventative measure. Additionally, as with many skin issues, maintaining outstanding levels of hygiene can help reduce the risk of it spreading.
Symptoms of ringworm can vary, so it’s important to be on the lookout for any possible signs and, without panicking, keep an open mind and be sensibly self-aware. The primary symptoms are skin-related. If you or your children have a red or silver ring-shaped rash, that is likely ringworm. More than that, if your skin is scaly, itchy, or inflamed, then that too may be ringworm. In addition, though there are other causes of such things to be aware of, if you have blisters, small red bumps, or some discoloration in the skin, these are also all possible signs of ringworm and you should seek medical advice to get some clarification as to whether the condition is contagious.
Because children can be especially affected, it is important to be vigilant in looking for these symptoms.
Given its contagiousness, among the biggest risk factors is contact with a person who already has ringworm. In addition, pets, sharing linen, clothes, or even towels after a shower, can also be major risk factors. It is also vital to say that anyone whose immune system is low is at a more significant risk of catching it, so people who are immunocompromised, for example through treatments such as chemotherapy, may be more at risk. Ensuring a well dried skin and avoiding undue sharing of personal effects will, however, lower the risk of catching ringworm for everyone.
Natural Remedies for Ringworm
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has a highly effective active compound called terpinen-4-ol. This compound is noted for having powerful anti-fungal properties that can make a difference to fungal infections like ringworm. In addition, tea tree oil has beneficial antimicrobial properties that can help to reduce inflammation and soothe any itching caused by ringworm. It is a highly useful oil to keep at home.
Garlic is an all-round good food, and for ringworm it has particularly efficacious qualities. The sulfur and antioxidants that are such strong components of garlic assist in speeding up the body’s healing. In addition, garlic is a natural antifungal food and its particular properties help fight off ringworm infection. To use it, either cook with it extensively, or crush some garlic and apply it directly onto the skin. You can also steep some garlic in olive oil and use that as a topical ointment. Doing this daily for a week or so will work to heal the ringworm, reduce inflammation, and make the condition more bearable.
Apple cider vinegar
This product has become much more widely available in recent years. To use it, dilute the apple cider vinegar with equal parts water before applying it to affected areas. It is essential that you ensure the product is diluted sufficiently, as vinegar has astringent properties that can sting and may lead to a temporary inflammation of the skin if you apply it in too concentrated a form.
You are best to leave it on for a few hours or overnight and gently wash it off in the morning. The process is a gradual one, but you will notice a difference over time and you can be reassured that the antiseptic qualities of the vinegar are working to heal throughout, as a cream might.
Essential oils are plant extracts that contain a complex mix of compounds known to possess medicinal properties. When it comes to treating ringworm, they can be highly effective in palliating the symptoms and in alleviating the condition. Many essential oils have antifungal properties, including some of the most popular oils on the market. Tea tree oil, lavender oil, and oregano oil are all worth looking out for. If you use them, however, try them on a small isolated patch of skin initially, before applying them more widely, to check you have no adverse reactions.
Medical Treatments for Ringworm
You will likely, though not always, need prescription medication. If so, antifungal medicine is generally considered to be the most effective way to treat ringworm. It both kills the fungus and also reduces the itching and redness symptoms associated with the ringworm.
It is always handy keeping a medicated shampoo at home. These are incredibly helpful for many skin complaints, including ringworm. This is because they contain strong antifungal ingredients such as selenium sulfide, and these chemicals are invariably very effective in helping to kill off the fungi that cause ringworm. They work by reducing the amount of fungus on the skin, and this in turn reduces the inflammation and irritation caused by ringworm. Pleasingly, these shampoos can be used for both adults and children.
The most well known and effective OTC (Over The Counter) remedies are antifungal creams containing clotrimazole. These are specifically designed to tackle fungal infections like ringworm. Generally, the advice is to apply the creams two or three times a day, which means they are not unduly intrusive into your daily routines.
Though they may not work for the more serious cases of ringworm, many people have some success in treating lighter cases with home treatments such as ginger, garlic, tea tree oil, and aloe vera. Lightly and gently applied in cream or paste form, these can support the reduction of the inflammation and redness ringworm brings.
Practicing proper hygiene
When you are sharing a living space with someone with ringworm, or if you are suffering from it yourself, there are things to be aware of to ensure that your household and workspace hygiene is less likely to spread the fungal infection.
- Heep your body clean and regularly washed, making sure that if you have a bath you wash the bath down afterwards
- Avoid sharing towels or cutlery
- Depending on where on your body you have ringworm, take care if sharing a toilet
- Make sure not to share any personal items like combs, hairbrushes, moisturizing creams, or underwear, such as pants or socks.
- Ensure to wash your clothes in separate laundry loads
- Do not share linen
- If your partner has ringworm, you are better to sleep apart while the condition is treated
- Disinfect door handles and kitchen and bathroom surfaces
Much of this is common sense for any contagious or infectious skin complaint, but it can require a change to habits, so take care to be aware of these minor adaptations to any routines.
Cleaning and washing surfaces and fabrics
Fabrics, too, can be a hazard for contagion. If you are in a shared space, rinse and clean any potentially infected surfaces and fabrics with warm water and soap. Afterwards, wash them thoroughly with an antifungal or antibacterial detergent. In addition, to develop the point we made earlier, make sure to use separate sponges, towels, and washcloths for each load of laundry, since ringworm can easily spread this way.
Wearing protective clothing
This may sound extreme, but one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others is to cover any infected areas of skin so that there is less chance of any spread. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a garment that covers any affected areas is wise.
Avoiding close contact
It can be difficult, but you have to try to modify your behavior if you either have ringworm or are near someone who does. That does not mean you should always stay away from someone who has the infection, but it does mean that you must exercise caution and take the necessary precautionary steps. Wash your hands and clothing often, and avoid touching any affected areas. And if you have come in contact with someone who has ringworm, be certain to wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Keeping the skin dry
Like most fungal infections, ringworm likes damper conditions. One way to help control the infection is therefore by keeping your skin dry. One key way to do so is to avoid activities that make you sweat, such as exercising or spending time in a hot environment. Additionally, make a concerted effort to keep the skin clean and dry with non-oily moisturizers and soaps. And always make sure you change out of any damp clothing promptly.
Clean and disinfect items that could spread the infection
Given the contagious nature of ringworm, it is vital to maintain proper domestic and workplace hygiene. Ensure you clean surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops and bathtubs with a disinfectant. You also need to make sure to wash objects and clothing that have been in contact with an infected person or an animal in very hot water.