How to Get Rid of Ringworms

Janis

By Janis | Updated January 1, 2024

Ringworm is a common skin infection caused by a group of fungi known as tinea. It presents as an itchy, red rash that can appear on various parts of your body. 

Despite its name, ringworm is not related to worms – it’s a fungal infection that thrives in warm, moist environments.

Being aware of the causes and symptoms of ringworm is essential for early detection and treatment. 

The good news is that there are several effective treatments available, ranging from over-the-counter antifungal creams to prescription medications, depending on the severity of the infection.

In this article, we’ll discuss ringworm management and treatment strategies and how they can help you get rid of this bothersome skin infection.

Understanding Ringworm Infections

Highly contagious, ringworm spreads through direct contact with infected people, pets, or objects. The fungi responsible for the infection can survive for long periods, increasing the risk of transmission.

The infection causes inflammation on your skin, forming a round rash with a clear center, resembling a worm in the shape of a ring. 

As the infection progresses, you might notice the rash expands and becomes itchier. It’s crucial to recognize and treat ringworm promptly to stop its spread and alleviate discomfort.

Confirming the Infection

To diagnose ringworm, a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or family doctor, will examine the rash and possibly other affected areas on your body. 

They might collect skin scrapings from the infected area to analyze under a microscope or send them to a laboratory for further testing.

An accurate diagnosis ensures appropriate treatment, preventing complications and further spread of the infection.

Getting Rid of the Infection

Effective ringworm management involves both treatment and prevention strategies. The focus here is on reducing symptoms and preventing spread.

This section will provide you with various methods that are essential for managing a ringworm infection, from hygiene practices to medication options.

Apply an Antifungal Cream or Ointment

One effective treatment for ringworm is applying a topical antifungal cream or ointment. 

These products can be found over-the-counter and include several active ingredients, such as terbinafine.

To use a topical antifungal, first make sure the affected area is clean and dry. Next, follow the instructions on the product’s packaging to apply the cream or ointment properly. 

Generally, you’ll want to apply a thin layer of the product to the infected area, gently rubbing it in until it’s absorbed. Topical antifungals are often used for 2 to 4 weeks.

It’s important to continue using the antifungal treatment even if your symptoms improve before the completion of the recommended treatment duration. 

This helps ensure the fungus is completely eliminated and prevents the ringworm from returning.

Replace Bedding Daily

Ringworm is highly contagious, and to prevent its spread, you should take care of your daily habits. One crucial step is washing your bedding. Use hot water to wash your bedding, along with a regular detergent. 

The combination helps kill ringworm fungi. Adding ½ cup of borax to the wash water enhances its efficacy.

It’s not just limited to your bed linens. Towels and clothes that come in contact with the infected area should also be replaced daily. This practice can reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other body parts or other people.

Treat your bedding to a heat session by drying it on the hottest setting allowed by the fabric label. Ensure at least 30 minutes of drying time. This is an essential step since the heat kills fungi while ensuring a clean environment to hasten your recovery.

Keep in mind that maintaining cleanliness is key to combating ringworm. Consistency in daily washing and proper sanitization of all items affected are vital in the battle against this contagious infection.

Letting the Skin Breathe

Keeping the affected area dry is crucial for treating ringworm. Moisture can worsen the rash and inflammation, making it important to let the area breathe to speed up recovery.

Pay special attention to your feet, as they tend to sweat more and create a damp environment which is conducive to fungal growth. Try wearing open-toed shoes and sandals.

Remember to avoid tight clothing around the rash since it may trap sweat and moisture. Choose loose, breathable garments to promote proper air circulation and reduce inflammation.

Change Wet Underwear and Socks

Keep your skin dry. Ringworm thrives in a damp environment, so it’s essential to maintain good hygiene by changing wet or sweaty clothing as soon as possible. This includes socks, underwear, and athletic gear.

Pay attention to rash areas. If you have a rash, particularly in the groin or between the toes, take extra care to keep these areas dry. Change your underwear and socks frequently, and consider using moisture-wicking or breathable fabrics.

Establish good habits. The most effective way to prevent ringworm and other fungal infections is by practicing consistent hygiene and keeping your skin dry.

As a simple rule, always change your socks and underwear at least once a day and ensure they are clean before wearing them again. 

Shower promptly after physical activity to wash away sweat, change into a new set of underwear, and minimize moisture buildup.

Use an Antifungal Shampoo

If you are experiencing ringworm on your scalp, an antifungal shampoo can provide effective treatment. These shampoos specifically target and eliminate the fungal spores that cause ringworm, restoring your scalp’s health.

Some antifungal shampoos also help with severe dandruff and can prevent hair loss. When choosing a shampoo, look for active anti-fungal ingredients to ensure maximum effectiveness.

It is essential to follow the shampoo’s instructions carefully, typically involving daily use during the initial treatment phase, followed by weekly maintenance.

Discuss with your healthcare provider if scalp ringworm persists; they might prescribe a stronger shampoo or oral medications to complement the topical treatment.

Use a Prescribed Antifungal

If over-the-counter treatments don’t work on your ringworm, prescription antifungal medications might be necessary. Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal lotion, cream, or ointment that you apply to the affected area. 

These potent medications can help in treating ringworm by disrupting the fungal cell membrane and inhibiting fungal growth, leading to the elimination of the infection.

It’s essential to follow your doctor’s instructions when using prescription medication. Take the medication as directed and for the entire prescribed duration to ensure the fungus is eliminated and prevent recurrence.

In some cases, particularly severe or extensive infections require oral antifungal pills instead of topical treatments. 

Home and Alternative Treatments

Home remedies and alternative treatments can serve as adjuncts to conventional medical therapies for ringworm. They aim to ease symptoms and may accelerate healing.

It’s crucial to note that while these options can be beneficial, they should not replace a healthcare professional’s advice or prescribed treatments.

Hypoallergenic Soap and Water

Using hypoallergenic soap and water is a simple, effective way to manage ringworm symptoms. It minimizes the risk of skin irritation and prevents spreading the fungus.

However, while this practice can complement medical treatment, it is not a substitute for antifungal medications prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy for ringworm due to its antifungal properties. 

To use it, dilute it with water and apply it to the affected area using a cotton ball. Change the cotton ball for each application to avoid spreading the infection.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been used for centuries to combat skin infections. Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) and apply directly on the ringworm. 

Do this twice a day until the infection clears up.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel is known for its soothing and antifungal properties.

Apply the gel directly onto the ringworm patch to soothe symptoms and help treat the infection. Repeat this process a few times daily.

Steroid Creams

Steroid creams might be prescribed by a doctor to relieve inflammation and itching. 

However, avoid using them without professional guidance, as improper use can exacerbate the infection.

Preventing Spread and Repeat Infection

Controlling moisture helps prevent the spread of ringworm. Ensure proper hygiene, wear breathable fabrics, and keep the affected area clean and dry.

Ringworm is contagious, so it’s important to avoid sharing items like towels, clothes, brushes, or combs. Wash your hair and body regularly to prevent infections. 

If you have pets or animals, ensure they don’t have ringworms and treat them if necessary.

Use hot water and a strong detergent to wash your clothing, especially socks and undergarments. Locker rooms can harbor the fungus, so protect your feet by wearing flip-flops.

If a family member has ringworm, practice good hygiene and clean shared areas frequently. Ringworm won’t always go away on its own, so seeking treatment is essential in preventing further spread and recurrence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most effective over-the-counter treatment for ringworm?

Over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungal medications can help treat ringworm effectively. 

Products containing tolnaftate or clotrimazole are often recommended. Apply these medications as directed, typically twice a day, for the specified duration.

How can ringworm be treated in children?

For children, using OTC antifungal creams is usually safe and effective. However, it’s best to consult a pediatrician before starting any treatment. In some cases, a prescription medication may be necessary. 

Always follow the recommended dosage and treatment duration to ensure the infection clears up completely.

What are the different stages of ringworm?

Ringworm goes through four stages: incubation, initial outbreak, active infection, and recovery. The incubation period typically lasts 4-14 days. The initial outbreak appears as a red, scaly, itchy patch. 

During the active infection phase, the patch becomes a distinct ring shape. Finally, recovery occurs when the antifungal treatment is successful and the skin heals.

Is ringworm dangerous, and can it have severe complications?

Ringworm is generally not dangerous or life-threatening. However, if left untreated it can lead to more extensive infections and scarring. Immunocompromised individuals or those with underlying health conditions are at an increased risk for complications.

What are the common causes of ringworm?

Ringworm is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. The infection can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, sharing contaminated items, or touching surfaces inhabited by the fungi. 

Warm, damp environments, like locker rooms and public showers, are common breeding grounds for dermatophytes, increasing the risk of infection.

What helps in treating multiple ringworm infections quickly?

For multiple ringworm infections or severe cases, consult a healthcare professional. They may prescribe oral antifungal medications, such as terbinafine, which can be more effective and faster-acting than topical treatments. 

Implementing good hygiene practices, like washing hands frequently, avoiding infected individuals or animals, and not sharing personal items, can help prevent further spread and reinfection.