Ringworm is a common fungal infection that is usually found on the top layer of your skin. Its appearance includes a red circular rash with clearer skin in the middle—looking like a worm, thus, getting its name.


Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection caused by parasites that develop on the cells in the outer layer of your skin. It can be spread when you had skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. You can also get ringworm from animals, soil and objects infected with ringworm. The fungi causing ringworm can live on an infected object, including clothing, brushes, and sports equipment for a long time.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get ringworm. Ringworm is common in tropical areas and during summers. The risk of getting ringworm increases if you participate in contact sports, share towels, clothes and other things without disinfecting it, and if you sweat a lot.


Ringworm is usually a flat scaly area on the skin at first. It is red and itchy. The flat patches will eventually raise and will have a scaly border. On light-colored skin, the patches tend to be red or pink. On skin of color, the patches are usually brown or gray.

Patches can grow slowly, increasing in size and appearing on more areas of the body. It does not have a regular shape, resembling the wavy outline of a snake or a worm.


Dermatologists can usually diagnose ringworm by looking at it. Your dermatologist may also examine other areas of your body. It’s common to have ringworm on one or both hands. Sometimes, the infection spreads to one or more nails. If the diagnosis isn't clear-cut, he or she may want to take some skin scrapings from the affected area so they can be examined under a microscope.


The American Academy of Dermatology The Mayo Clinic


Treatment and Prevention

If detected with ringworm, your dermatologist will treat it with antifungal medicine. This medicine comes in many different forms like creams, ointments, and pills. What you use will depend on the area of the body that needs treatment. For a mild case of ringworm, you can apply an over-the-counter antifungal lotion or cream like clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) and terbinafine (Lamisil AT). If your infection is severe or extensive, your doctor might prescribe antifungal pills.

Ringworm fungus is common and contagious even before symptoms appear. Because of this, ringworm may be difficult to prevent. However, there are things you can do to avoid ringworm. Wash your hands often to avoid the spread of infection. Keep common or shared areas clean. Avoid excessive sweating by not wearing thick clothes. Avoid infected animals. Don’t share personal items. Always remember proper hygiene.


The American Academy of Dermatology The Mayo Clinic


What causes ringworm?

Certain types of fungi (plural of fungus) cause ringworm. These fungi thrive where it’s warm and humid. Ringworm is common in tropical areas and during hot, humid summers. It flourishes in warm, moist locker rooms and indoor pools.

You can also get ringworm when the weather is cool because ringworm is extremely contagious.

It's possible to get ringworm from:

  • Having skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it.
  • Petting an animal like a dog, cat, or farm animal infected with ringworm.
  • Touching soil infected with ringworm.
  • Using an infected object like a phone, comb, or towel.

The fungi that cause ringworm can live on any infected object, including clothing, brushes, and sports equipment for a long time.


The American Academy of Dermatology


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