Ringworm: What is ringworm and how do you get it?

Ringworm is a common and highly contagious fungal infection - here's how to spot it and treat it.

Ringworm is one of those infections you’ve heard of but probably wouldn’t know how to spot, or what to do if you ever contracted it.

While it’s not too worrying, as a fungal infection rarely spreads below the surface of the skin to cause serious illness, ringworm is uncomfortable and unsightly.

Here’s everything you need to know about it…

Ringworm: What is ringworm and how do you get it?

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection. These are caused by many different types of fungi, including yeasts. They’re quite common, and may be the cause of that itchy rash you’ve had for a while.

Despite the title, it’s an infection with a fungus, not a worm. The name comes from the way it often causes a ring-shaped rash.

It is difficult to prevent contracting ringworm as it’s a common fungus, and very contagious.

However to reduce the risk, you can do the following:

  • Wash hands regularly (especially if you’re in schools/gyms regularly)
  • Avoid prolonged time in humid and warm environments
  • Have any pets checked by your vet
  • Avoid sharing other peoples clothes/towels/hairbrushes 
What is ringworm

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READ MORE: Common childhood illnesses

Ringworm causes: how do you get ringworm?

You may be at higher risk of contracting it if you:

  • live in a warm climate
  • have pets
  • take part in sports with skin-to-skin contact, such as wrestling
  • wear tight clothing
  • have a weak immune system

Ringworm symptoms

The main and most obvious symptom is a red or silver rash. This rash may be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy. The rash is usually ring-shaped, unless it’s on your face neck or scalp.

In these cases, it can resemble a run-of-the-mill rash. Sometimes the rash grows, spreads outwards or there’s more than one area of the rash.

The main symptoms to look out for are:

  • round patches of skin with a red raised edge and clearer centre
  • scaly and very itchy skin
  • very red skin scaling at the edge of rash
  • raised and blistered skin
  • multiple rings (severe infection)

Should you have ringworm on your scalp you may experience patches of hair loss, which may go on to reveal a rash underneath.

Though it will be hard, try to ignore the urge to scratch as doing so may result in the rash spreading further to other parts of the body.

Ringworm treatment: how to get rid of ringworm?

While our first reaction is to call the doctors, the NHS actually advises speaking to your pharmacist first. A simple course of antifungal cream, gel or spray may be the best course of action.

It should take up to two weeks to clear.

Is ringworm contagious?

Yes, it is very contagious. It’s a type of fungi and can be spread through close contact with not only the infected person, but also through bedsheets and towels.

To avoid this, be sure to keep hands clean, and to wash bedding and towels on a high temperature to kill any germs and bacteria.

Avoid sharing towels or bedding with someone who has ringworm.

Ringworm in children and babies

While babies and children can get it anywhere on the body, the scalp in children is the most common place for it to occur from the ages of two to 10-years-old. Be warned, it’s important to know what you’re looking at, as it can often resemble other conditions.

This fungal rash can start out as an innocent looking patch of dry looking skin, which may look like eczema.

What is ringworm

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Over time, these patches start to grow in ring-like circles, between ½ and 1 inch in diameter.

Treatments depend on the severity. For example, if your child has one or two small areas of patchy, scaly skin, a doctor may prescribe a cream treatment.

You must let your child’s school or nursery know that they’ve had the fungal rash so they are on the look out for any other cases. Otherwise, your child is safe to go back once they have started treatment.

Ringworm pictures: what does ringworm look like?

With all these descriptions, you’re probably wondering ‘what does ringworm look like?’ Well, as a ‘red rash’ can seem a little vague here are a few pictures to clarify.

What is ringworm

alejandrophotography / Getty Images

What is ringworm?

reanas / Getty Images

What is ringworm

bankrx / Getty images