By Pamela Sansoucy, MD
Department of Family Practice
Tineas corporis, also known as ringworm, athlete’s foot, or jock itch, is not caused by a worm at all. It is a fungal infection of the skin that derives its name from the ring or circle-like rash it usually makes on the body. Ringworm can show up anywhere, including the scalp, but is most common in the groin, feet, and areas of the body where the skin folds or creases and stays moist.
Ringworm tends to be more common during the warmer months and with athletes since they perspire more. Unfortunately, ringworm is contagious and can be spread person-to-person, as well as on objects. Even animals such as dogs and cats can spread ringworm from an active infection.
Ringworm can affect all ages. In addition to a ring-shaped rash, signs of a ringworm infection include red, itchy, scaly skin that often peels or cracks. Ringworm of the scalp appears as round patches where the hair has broken off at or just above the scalp. These bald-looking patches can slowly grow larger and be tender and painful.
Here are some tips if you or your child has a ringworm infection:
- Change clothes, including underwear and socks, every day. Be sure to wash all clothes before wearing them again, including workout clothing.
- Do not share towels or other personal items. Ringworm can be easily spread through towels, combs, hats, and similar items.
- Wear shower sandals or thongs when using locker rooms and pools. Proper footwear gives you some protection from ringworm and also helps prevent it from spreading to others.
- Be sure to shower after exercising. Remember that fungi thrive in moist, warm areas. Washing away perspiration and keeping your skin dry can help prevent ringworm and keep it from coming back.
- Disinfect or throw out any infected items. Remember that the fungus that causes ringworm can live a long time on many household items. Taking precautions can help prevent reinfection.
- Wash towels and bedding regularly. Be sure to use hot, soapy water to help get rid of any fungus.
- For athlete’s foot, do not wear the same footwear two days in a row. Allow your shoes to dry out for a day after you wear them. Spraying the inside of footwear with Lysol or another disinfectant can also be helpful. Using foot powder in your shoes that contains cornstarch or zinc oxide can also help prevent ringworm (as well as odor). Putting socks on before the rest of clothing can prevent spreading along the body.
Fortunately, most ringworm infections are easily treated. You can find effective over-the-counter medications at your local drugstore. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully. If you have a ringworm infection that gets worse or does not respond to treatment, you should talk to your primary care provider. If you or your child has a ringworm infection of the nails or on the scalp, it will require a prescription antifungal medicine. You should use the medication as long as recommended by your doctor, even if the rash is getting better.
Almost everyone will contract a ringworm infection at some point in their lives, whether on the head, toes or somewhere in-between. It is a very common skin problem. However, it is best not to neglect a ringworm infection and treat it promptly. That way, you can prevent spreading it to others and deal with that red, itchy, irritated skin for as little time as possible!
About Pamela Sansoucy, MD
One of the reasons Dr. Pamela Sansoucy was inspired to become a physician was the fact that her grandfather became very ill when she was growing up. “As a child, it was hard to understand what was going on and it made me want to know more about medicine,” she explains. “So, I really think that helped point me in the direction of becoming a physician.”
Dr. Sansoucy enjoys the everyday challenge of being a family practice...View profile View posts by this doctor