What is Ringworm and it’s Causes?
Dermatophytosis, which is also known as ringworm infection, is a common skin infection that affects people of all ages. Having this condition can be quite distressing. However, the term “ringworm” is actually a misnomer because parasitic worms do not cause this condition.
A number of different fungi species can cause ringworm. The most common causative agents are dermatophytes from the Microsporum and Trichophyton genera. These fungi can attack any part of the skin’s surface.
Ringworms take the form of a round skin lesion with a red, scaly boarder and clear center. The condition is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, and these pathogens thrive in warm and moist areas. They also usually feed on keratin, which is a fibrous protein that forms the main structure of human hair, nails, and skin.
Is Ringworm Contagious?
Ringworm infection is contagious and spread via skin-to-skin contact. Although anyone can get it, children tend to be the most frequently affected since they’re usually in closer contact with each other. It’s also possible to catch ringworm if you touch items contaminated by the fungus such as combs, brushes, clothing, pool surfaces, and showers. Pets can transmit this infection to humans as well, with cats and dogs being common carriers.
Although ringworms are not a serious problem, they can leave you vulnerable to secondary infections and other skin disorders. If you suspect you have ringworms, read on to learn about common infections, their symptoms, and how to treat them.
Ringworms can form on the face, scalp, hands, palms, fingers, legs, feet, or groin area. Symptoms will vary based on where they form. The name of each specific infection is created by combining the word Tinea (meaning ringworms) with a Latin term for the infected area. Here are names of different types of ringworm infections and their symptoms:
- Tinea Corporis
This refers to fungal skin infections on the arms, legs, and trunk. Ringworms on these areas of the body appear as inflamed and scaly patches, or even circular and blister-like lesions.
- Tinea Capitis
Also known as ringworms of the scalp, Tinea Capitis is quite common in children. The affected area usually forms a bald patch that might be scaly or itchy.
- Tinea Barbae
When ringworms form on facial hair, this condition is called Tinea Barbae. The condition is often accompanied by swelling, crusting, and itching, all of which cause hair to break off from the affected area.
- Tinea Cruris
This condition refers to ringworms of the groin, which is also known as “jock itch”. The ringworms usually appear as itchy, raised, reddish-brown patches that extend from the folds of the groin to the thighs. This fungal infection might also resemble psoriasis and yeast infections.
- Tinea Pedis / Tinea Unguium
Ringworms can also infect the feet (Tinea Pedis) and cause athlete’s foot or the nails (Tinea Unguium), which in turn develops into a fungal nail infection (medically known as onychomycosis).
While ringworms can cause intense itching, the good news is that they’re easy to cure with natural home remedies or over-the-counter drugs.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Ringworms
Ringworms are not a life threatening condition. However, they can be embarrassing especially when you have them on the head, face, or any other area on the skin that’s difficult to hide. The worst part about having a ringworm infection is the skin irritation they cause.
When left untreated, intense itching will make you scratch violently in order to get some relief. Unfortunately, scratching affected areas may lead to skin breakages, which allow secondary infections to take root.
You can use several natural remedies at home to kill the fungus that causes ringworms and get relief from itchiness. With that in mind, here are the top home remedies to get rid of ringworms naturally.
- Olive Leaf
Almost every part of the olive plant has health benefits. The leaf acts as a potent natural anti-fungal. As a result, olive leaf can kill the fungus that causes ringworms. An added health benefit of olive leaf extract is that it boosts the body’s immune system, and this can potentially help to speed up recovery.
You should take 250g of olive leaf infusion 3 times per day for the treatment to work. Continue to consume the leaf up to one week later after the ringworms have resolved so that the problem does recur.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a remedy for many types of skin disorders. It can treat acne and pimples or help cuts and burns to heal. When it comes to ringworms, this oil does not disappoint. It has antifungal and antiseptic agents that fight off the fungus that causes ringworms.
Here are some quick steps on how to use tea tree oil as a remedy for ringworms:
- Dip a cotton ball in tea tree oil and let it soak. You can dilute the tea tree oil with an equal amount of water or use it undiluted for a more potent application. Adding lavender oil will also create an even more powerful antifungal treatment agent.
- Squeeze the oil extract onto the affected area.
- Ensure that all ringworms are covered in oil by patting the cotton wool around the infection.
- Repeat this procedure three times every day to get rid of the ringworms.
- Lemongrass Tea
Due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, lemongrass helps to limit microbial growth on the skin. This in turn helps to keep ringworms from spreading and the infection will begin to clear up with time.
You can drink lemongrass tea up to three times a day to make the most out of its therapeutic effects on ringworms. In addition, applying used lemongrass tea bags on the affected area is a good way to soothe the itchiness that is associated with ringworms.
As an added bonus, lemongrass acts an astringent. Therefore, it will minimize the pores on infected skin and dry out any blistered ringworms.
Since the 1550 BC, Egyptians have continued to use myrrh as a natural repellent for fleas and to embalm the dead. Today, this herb is used widely to cure skin related disorders because of its medicinal properties.
Myrrh essential oil acts as a fungicide and is an astringent compound as well. You can use it externally to treat a fungal skin infection.
- Simply mix myrrh with goldenseal in equal proportions and add a few drops of water to the mixture.
- Apply this paste directly on the affected area up to 3 times a day.
- This will kill the fungus and relieve any swelling around the ringworm. Alternatively, you can buy myrrh solution and use it to rinse your ringworm rashes.
- Garlic Extract
The antifungal compound in garlic, ajoene, makes it one of the best home remedies for ringworms. Garlic can effectively kill the fungus that causes ringworms when you apply it directly on the infected skin.
To make an even more effective remedy, here are instructions for using garlic with honey and olive oil:
- Use a pestle and mortor to crush a few cloves of garlic.
- Mix the garlic paste with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and honey.
- Apply this paste on your ringworm-infected skin.
- Wash the paste off after about one hour with warm water.
- Repeat this process 2 to 3 times every day for at least 4 weeks.
- Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is an excellent antibiotic and consists of natural ingredients. It helps to destroy a wide range of disease-causing microorganisms, including those that cause ringworms.
You can get colloidal silver at herbal stores in gel or liquid form. Apply it topically as either a gel or spray on the infected area at least twice daily.
It can take up to 4 weeks for ringworms to heal. Therefore, continue with this treatment until the ringworm infection vanishes.
- Apple Cider Vinegar and Salt
Salt is an excellent astringent that dries up patches of ringworms that have been scratched severely. You can use it as a paste when mixed with apple cider vinegar to add some antifungal properties to the remedy. The vinegar creates a highly acidic and hostile environment that makes it difficult for fungus to survive on your skin. Eventually, the fungus starts to die and ringworms start to heal.
Here are the steps on how to prepare an apple cider vinegar and salt solution for treating ringworms:
- Method 1
Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of salt to make a thick paste. Apply the paste directly on ringworms and leave it on for about five minutes. Repeat this process 2 to 3 times every day until the infection clears up completely.
- Method 2
Add half to a quarter cup of sea salt to a basin filled with diluted apple cider vinegar. Soak the ringworm-affected area in this solution for thirty minutes to an hour. Repeat this process 2 times daily to get relief from ringworms and speed up recovery.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a common ingredient used in many cosmetic products because of its therapeutic effects on the skin. As such, it’s also used as a home remedy to treat various skin problems, including ringworms.
To treat ringworm-infected skin with aloe vera:
- Split a fresh leaf open and squeeze the gel on the affected area.
- Leave the gel on overnight and rinse it off the next morning.
- Keep in mind that regular use of aloe vera will naturally heal the ringworm in a few days.
Besides its wide use in the culinary world, Turmeric is a common natural remedy for many skin problems. This spice can heal ringworms because of its antibiotic properties. You can use either fresh turmeric or turmeric powder to treat ringworms.
Ways to Treat Ringworms with Turmeric
- Method 1
Mix 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder with 1 teaspoon of water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste on the ringworm-affected area. Rinse the paste off with water about 30 minutes later. Apply this treatment on a regular basis until your infection disappears.
- Method 2
Alternatively, use a juicer or blender to make fresh turmeric juice. Apply the juice using the same procedure in the previous method. Repeat up to 3 times a day until you see the ringworm problem go away.
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is yet another safe and natural remedy for ringworms. Its magic active ingredient is lauric acid. This medium chain fatty acid kills many species of fungi by dissolving the outer cell membrane. Without a protection barrier, the ringworm-causing fungus dies.
Here are the steps for using coconut oil as a natural treatment for ringworms:
- Take the required amount of coconut oil and apply it liberally on the ringworm.
- Massage the infected area for about two minutes so that the oil can work its way through the skin pores.
- Let the coconut oil remain on the treatment area overnight and wash it off the next day.
- Do this for a couple of weeks, and watch the ringworms being cured.
- Jojoba and Lavender Oil
Lavender and jojoba oil is a safe remedy to use on babies and children that have ringworms. Lavender doesn’t stunt the growth of dermatophytes. However, its antifungal properties will destroy the fungus that’s causing ringworms.
All you need to do is mix a drop of lavender oil in a teaspoon of jojoba oil. Pat a cotton ball soaked in this mixture on the affected area then let it stay in place for half an hour. Repeat this process up to 3 times daily for about 4 weeks.
- Mustard Seeds
Mustard seed is a common home remedy for ringworms. It helps to soothe the itchiness and swelling around a ringworm. Applying mustard seed paste on ringworm-infected skin can therefore prevent secondary skin infections caused by scratching.
To use this remedy:
- Place one teaspoon of fresh mustard seeds in a bowl of warm water and let them soak overnight.
- Grind the mustard seeds the next morning using a pestle and mortar to form a smooth paste.
- Apply this paste on the ringworm infection directly. Let the paste stay on for about 45 minutes to an hour before rinsing it off with lukewarm water.
- For the best results, repeat this remedy daily over a period of 14 days.
Medical Treatments for Ringworms
If home remedies do not heal ringworms, the next best option is to seek medical treatment with drugs. Numerous antifungal medications for treating ringworms exist. Some may require a doctor’s prescription while others do not. Generally, ringworm medications are grouped into the following categories:
- Topical Applications
Most ringworm infections can be treated with non-prescription antifungal topical applications. These medications come in the form of creams, lotions, sprays, gels, or powders.
When looking for the best fungicides to treat ringworms, go for those that contain all natural (Phytozine) or synthetic ingredients namely clotrimazole, miconazole econazole, naftifine, or terbinafine (Lamisil). Depending on the brand, some antifungal creams also act as an anti-itch reliever. Burow’s solution is an antibacterial medication, but it can dry out blisters on seriously inflamed ringworms.
Antifungal topical medications for ringworms are also effective at treating athlete’s foot. For ringworms on your toenails or fingernails, you will need to use antifungal nail paint.
Over-the-counter topical applications should clear mild ringworms in two weeks, but the duration of treatment can go up to 4 weeks. It’s important to continue applying antifungal ointments and sprays for the entire recommended course even if symptoms clear up within a few weeks. This will ensure that all the fungus has died, thus preventing the infection from returning.
- Antifungal Shampoos
Antifungal shampoos are good for treating ringworms on the scalp. Although they won’t cure the scalp infection, these shampoos will speed up recovery and prevent ringworms from spreading.
A few antifungal shampoos you can get over-the-counter without a prescription include ketoconazole and selenium sulphide. Usage instructions may vary, but most antifungal shampoos will require you to clean the entire scalp twice a week with the minimum treatment duration being 2 weeks.
- Oral Drugs
If a ringworm rash persists even after you’ve tried using antifungal creams and shampoos, make sure to see a doctor. Your GP can diagnose ringworms by simply looking at them through a special light called a “Wood’s lamp”. If the infection may look like something else, your doctor can scrape off a skin sample to examine under a microscope. This helps to identify the fungus and confirm the diagnosis.
Persistent ringworms that last for more than 4 weeks usually require treatment with antifungal pills such as Fluconazole (Diflucan), Itraconazole (Sporanox), Griseofulvin or Terbinafine.
Tips to Prevent Ringworms from Spreading or Recurring
- Avoid sharing personal items like combs, brushes, beddings, towels and clothing.
- Good personal hygiene such as washing of hands and regular bathing with an antifungal soap should be followed in order to keep a ringworm infection under control and prevent it from spreading.
- Do not scratch areas affected with ringworms as this can spread the infection to other parts of your body.
- Put on protective footwear in the gym, communal showers, and changing rooms to reduce the risk of getting athlete’s foot.
- Don’t touch bald patches on your dog or cat. If you suspect your pet has ringworms, make an appointment with the vet.
- If you or someone from your household has ringworms, treatment should be started as soon as possible. It is also important to finish the prescribed treatment to prevent the infection from returning.
- When going to get a haircut or have your hair styled at a salon, ensure that your barber or beauty therapist sterilizes hair cutting or styling equipment properly.