How to Kill Ringworm on the Skin

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Avoid scratching a ringworm rash or it may spread.
Avoid scratching a ringworm rash or it may spread. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Ringworm is a fungal infection that manifests itself as a small ring or circle rash on the skin. The rash is usually found on the hands, scalp, feet, face, or neck. Ringworm usually appears first as a small red circle and then grows until it looks like a red raised ring approximately ½ to one inch in diameter with a pale center. It's contracted from other people, animals or objects that are infected.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Gentle soap (no fragrance or dyes)

Schedule a doctor's appointment to get a correct diagnosis if you are not sure if you have ringworm. Ringworm is easier to treat while the rash is small and has not spread. Symptoms include patches of pale blistery skin surrounded by a red ring that looks like a worm forming a circle. The rash may crust over after the small blisters pop. Intense itching also accompanies a ringworm rash. It can develop into a bacterial infection if germs enter the broken skin, so proper treatment is crucial.

Buy an over-the-counter anti-fungal lotion to treat ringworm, unless the entire body is involved (which means you may need a prescription-strength lotion for treatment). Anti-fungal creams used for treating athlete's foot can work on ringworm because ringworm and the athlete's foot rash are fungal infections. If ringworm is on the scalp, use a shampoo that contains an anti-fungal substance. If the rash is in the groin area, use a jock itch cream. Generic names for anti-fungal creams that are used to treat ringworm are clotrimazole, ketoconazole, terbinafine, and miconazole.

Follow the directions on the bottle of anti-fungal cream. In most cases these directions will have you apply the cream twice a day for two weeks until the rash disappears. Spread the cream beyond the edge of the rash to make sure the surrounding area is treated as well. Most anti-fungal shampoos require you to shampoo your hair once per day until the rash is gone.

Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of ringworm. Use a gentle soap to clean the area. Soothe and lessen the itching with an anti-itch cream containing hydrocortisone, tea tree oil, or calendula. Since showering once per day and washing your hands may dry out your skin, use non-irritating lotion or tea tree oil to moisturize the area.

Prevent the rash from spreading to the rest of your body and to other people. Cover the rash with a bandage if it is on your hands. Do not swim in public pools until the rash is gone. Do not share hairbrushes, towels, or clothing while you have the rash. Keep your feet and groin dry to avoid a recurrence of the rash. Wear sandals when in a public shower. In most cases the ringworm rash will disappear within two weeks, but anti-fungal creams are generally safe to use for a few more days to make sure the rash is completely gone.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the ringworm rash has not cleared up within four weeks, you should contact a doctor. In addition, if it appears that the rash is still spreading after one week of treatment, see your doctor. Immediate re-infection is not normally a problem, but treating the rash until it is completely gone is important.

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