RINGWORM: FACTS, PREVENTION, AND REMEDIES
WHAT IS RINGWORM?
Ringworm is a common skin infection that is caused by a fungus Tinea, which is highly contagious. Ringworm isn’t a worm. Because it can cause a circular rash (like a ring) that is usually red and itchy, it is called as Ringworm. The medical terms used for it is “tinea” or “dermatophytosis.” It has also other names based on its location on the body – for example, ringworm on the feet is known as “athlete’s foot.” Details are explained later.
WHAT CAUSES RINGWORM?
Anyone can get ringworm irrespective of their ages, particularly with compromised immunity and young children. The fungi that cause this infection can survive on dead tissues of your skin, hair, nails, etc. It also can live on household items such as clothing, towels, and bedding. Warm and moist climates provide a suitable breeding ground for it.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection caused by mold-like parasites which live on the cells in the outer layer of our skin. It can be passed through skin-to-skin contact and by sharing personal care items likes combs, brushes clothing. Ringworm can be spread at the locker room or pool surfaces. Even dogs, cats, and other pets may transmit the infection to humans.
TYPES OF RINGWORM
There are different types of ringworm or tinea. They are briefly explained under:
It is ringworm found on the face except in the area of the beard. Ringworm found on the face is rarely ring-shaped and causes red scaly patches with indistinct edges.
The Ringworm found on the bearded area of the face and neck, with swelling and marked crusting is called Tinea barbae. Its symptoms often accompanied by itching and causing the hair to break off. Tinea barbae is also called barber’s itch.
It is also known as Scalp ringworm which commonly affects children and spread in schools. Tinea capitis is associated with bald spots opposite to seborrhea or dandruff, which do not cause hair loss. Sometimes, a kerion (a pus-filled, raised swelling) may develop in severe cases of scalp ringworm.
When fungus affects the skin of the body, it is called Tinea corporis or Dermatophytosis. It may occur on any part of the body like arms, legs and chest areas, etc. The first stage involves a red, scaly area of skin that may be slightly raised (plaque) which tends to worsen rapidly and progresses to form the characteristic ring shape. These spots may have an “active” outer border as they slowly grow and advance. It is important to distinguish ringworm of the body from other skin disorders, such as nummular eczema, which may appear similar to ringworm. And they are not due to a fungal infection and require different treatment.
Fungal infections of the groin are called Tinea cruris or “jock itch”. It tends to have a reddish-brown color and extends from the folds of the groin down onto one or both thighs. Other conditions similar to tinea cruris include yeast infections, psoriasis, and intertrigo, a chafing rash resulting from the skin rubbing against the skin.
Tinea Manus and Tinea Pedis:
It is also called tinea manuum. It is the ringworm found on the hands, particularly on the palms and in between the fingers. It causes thickening (hyperkeratosis) of the affected areas. When it is found on the feet, it’s called tinea pedis or Athlete’s feet (ringworm of the feet). Tinea pedis causes blisters between the toes or on the sole. It is perhaps the most common and most persistent fungal (tinea) infections.
The fungal infection that makes the fingernails and, more often, the toenails yellow, thick, and crumbly is referred to as fungal nails or onychomycosis.
HOW TO GET RID OF RINGWORM?
The treatment for ringworm depends on the infected location and seriousness of the infection. While some forms of ringworm can be treated without any medical prescription i.e. over-the-counter medications, some other forms of ringworm need treatment with doctors prescribed antifungal medication.
Ringworm on the skin like jock itch (tinea cruris) and athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications like antifungal creams, lotions, or powders directly applied to the affected area for 2 to 4 weeks. Examples of such over-the-counter medications are- Clotrimazole, Miconazole, Terbinafine, and ketoconazole, etc. Those can be easily purchased from any pharmaceutical store and the patient just has to follow the directions written on the package label. One should contact a healthcare provider if the infection gets worse and doesn’t go away after using over-the-counter non-prescribed medications.
On the other hand Ringworm on the scalp (tinea capitis) usually needs proper dermatologist’s attention and to be treated with antifungal oral medication for 1 to 3 months. In most cases, Creams, lotions, or powders don’t work for ringworm on the scalp. Generally, the oral antifungal medications used to treat ringworm on the scalp include Terbinafine, Itraconazole, and Fluconazole, etc.
HOW TO PREVENT RINGWORM?
One can also take various steps to prevent the spread of ringworm infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following:
- Keeping skin clean and dry.
- Wearing shoes that allow free air circulation around the feet.
- Never walk barefoot in areas like locker rooms or public showers.
- Clipping your fingernails and toenails short and keeping them clean.
- Changing socks and underwear at least once a day.
- Don’t share clothing, towels, combs, brushes or other personal items with someone who has ringworm.
- Wash your hands with hand sanitizers or soap and running water after playing with pets. If you suspect that your pet has ringworm, immediately take it to a veterinarian.
- If you’re an athlete then take a shower immediately after games or practice sessions and wash your sports gear regularly and avoid sharing them with others.
HOME REMEDIES FOR TREATING RINGWORM
Garlic is a known household treatment for fungal and yeast infections. Just make a paste of crushed garlic cloves and blend it with some olive or coconut oil and apply a thin layer of paste to the affected skin and cover with gauze for up to 2 hours. Repeat the process twice daily until symptoms resolve completely. In case it causes stinging, swelling, or redness, rinse off immediately and do not reapply.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR:
Apple cider vinegar also contains antifungal properties against Candida and other fungal infections. Just soak a cotton wool pad in the undiluted vinegar and apply it on the affected area. Repeat the process up to 3 times daily.
According to research Aloe vera (Ghrit Kumari) also contains antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral activities. One has to apply the gel extracted from an Aloe vera plant onto the ringworm patch three or four times daily. The Aloe vera gel also has cooling properties, and it can be effective for soothing itchy and swollen skin.
Research suggests that coconut oil may be effective against mild to moderate skin infections. Coconut oil can be used to treat ringworm by applying it to the affected skin three times per day. People also use coconut oil as a moisturizing lotion and it may be an effective way to prevent future ringworm infections too.
Turmeric (Haldi) is a popular spice with anti-inflammatory properties. A part of turmeric known as curcumin is believed to contain health benefits. Several studies explain its extensive antimicrobial abilities.
Just consume turmeric as a tea or use it in your dishes to reap its benefits. For topical applications, mix it with a small amount of coconut oil until it forms a paste and apply directly to the infected skin and leave it to dry before wiping off.
TEA TREE OIL:
Native Australians strongly believed and used tea tree oil as a remedy against bacterial and fungal skin infections for almost a century. Dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply to the skin three times daily.
Oregano oil is made from wild oregano (Origanum vulgare), which contains two strong antifungals called thymol and carvacrol. Some research studies show that oil of oregano can stop the growth of fungal infections. Always dilute oil of oregano with carrier oil like coconut oil before use. Apply the oil to the affected area up to three times daily.
AUTHOR: SRIBATSA PATTANAYAK
EMAIL: [email protected]