How to Kill Ringworm

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Ringworm is a condition that infects specific areas of your skin. Learn how to kill ringworm with help from a practicing pediatrician in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Keep Your Body Healthy
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to be talking about how to kill ringworm. First, we should probably cover, what is ringworm? Good news, it's not a worm. Bad news, it's a fungus. That doesn't really sound that much better than a worm does it? But, it does have a real impact on what it takes to kill it, the fungi that cause ringworm, and why do I use the plural? Well, there's a whole class of different fungi that live on our skin and can cause these infections, so different ringworm may be caused by different members of this class. The fungi that live on our skin are often there doing us no harm, but sometimes they grow out of control and cause peeling, itching or even little bumps of the skin. How you treat it depends on where it is? When ringworm forms between the toes or in the groin in areas that are moist and humid, one of the things you want to do is try and dry those areas out as well as you can. You can also use an antifungal cream, and all the great antifungal creams are now over the counter, so there's not much point in going to a doctor and asking for an antifungal cream, just about all of them you can buy without a prescription. Those include, among others, Terbinafine, Miconazole, Clotrimazole, Tolnaftate. There's a handful of them, and they're usually in the athlete's foot section of your local pharmacy or even the grocery store. You want to apply whatever you're going to put on it for at least twice a day, at least two or three weeks. Fungi grow kind of slowly, and it takes a long time to kill them. Now, what if you see the classic ringworm, sort of a circular lesion that may start as one little pimple or bump, and then spread outward and clear in the middle? Well, you want to put the cream on, but you want to go around that lesion by a good inch or so, because the fungi are actually growing out there beyond where the bumps are. The bad thing is too, assuming the cream is working, you need to keep using it for at least another week after you don't see the rash any more. That's really tough because the rash was kind of reminding you that you needed to treat the rash. However, it's really important to kill those last lingering fungi, even though you don't see the body's reaction to them anymore. Now, if you've been using an antifungal cream over the course of a week and that ring is still there, well there are other things that cause rings on the skin that are not ringworm. There's a condition called Granuloma Annulare that looks a lot like ringworm, but only responds to steroids. Steroids on ringworm, not so good. It lets the fungus grow wild. You can get psoriasis, eczema, so don't necessarily assume that every circle on the skin is a ringworm lesion. If you've treated it for a week or so and you're not seeing any improvement, you probably need to have a doctor get a look at that. Now, last note, ringworm in the scalp may cause hair loss, may cause little dots where the hairs break off. That does not respond to a topical medicine. When ringworm gets down in the hair shaft, the only way to kill it is by giving an oral medicine. Almost always, that medicine is Griseofulvin, and they have to give it for a long time, usually about six weeks. Rarely, when Griseofulvin doesn't work, there are a couple of backup medicines we can use as well, such as Itraconazole. Talking about how to kill ringworm, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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