Ringworm, also called "tinea", has a misleading name because it's not a worm at all; it's actually a type of fungus. Ringworm can occur on the body, scalp, nails and feet. Unfortunately, it is highly contagious and easily spread from person to person. The good news is that it is treatable, preventable and relatively harmless. If you have ringworm, or know someone who does, read on to find out how you can treat, prevent and keep the fungus from spreading.
An important first step is to make sure that the infection is in fact ringworm and not some other type of skin ailment. Therefore, don't be afraid to pay a visit to your family doctor or dermatologist to help you determine the exact nature of your infection. Ringworm is generally characterized as a red or brown bumpy and scaly patch of skin that often causes itching or discomfort. It is generally darker around the edges and lighter in the center.
Ringworm is spread easily through skin-to-skin contact between humans, through the sharing of clothing, towels and other personal belongings and through the use of showers and toilet seats with an infected person. It can also be spread through contact with domestic pets such as dogs and cats. The best way to stop the spread of ringworm is to treat it immediately upon discovery. Doctors often prescribe clotrimazole, a topical ointment that is gently rubbed over the area of infection. Terbinafine, commonly known as Lamisil, is another popular antifungal ointment used to treat ringworm on the body and nails. Pyrithione zinc, an ingredient commonly found in anti-dandruff shampoos, can be used to treat ringworm on the scalp. Other topical treatments include miconazole, butenafine, and tolnaftate. Most are also available without a prescription at drugstores.
The use of topical antifungal ointments should help clear up ringworm within a week of treatment. It is essential to continue treatment for about 2 weeks after the symptoms have cleared up in order to effectively prevent future infections. Pet owners should check for symptoms of ringworm in dogs, cats and smaller pets such as hamsters and gerbils. Symptoms in pets are similar to those in humans. An infected pet should be kept separate from other pets to prevent further contamination. Also, be sure to handle infected pets with gloves until the ringworm has cleared up. Consult a veterinarian for best methods of ringworm treatment for your pet.
The fungus that causes ringworm may be present without any symptoms. Thus, to ensure further protection do not share towels, razors, clothing, bed sheets, sports equipment and other personal objects of any sort. Always wear flip-flops or other protective footwear when using communal showers, locker rooms and swimming pools. Fungi live and reproduce in dark, moist areas so make sure to always keep your skin and clothes clean and fresh.