What is Ringworm
Ringworm is a common fungal infection that is highly contagious. This fungus can be contracted from other humans, from pets, and from items that an infected person or animal has touched. The fungus feeds on keratin – a component of the dead cells that make up the outermost layer of the skin. It typically begins in a single spot as an itchy, slightly flaky lesion and then spreads outward in a circular pattern with the leading edge of the circle appearing red and puffy. Ringworm can affect any area of the skin and may spread rapidly once it is established. Besides itching, redness, and discomfort, ringworm can also cause hair loss when it infests the scalp. Although this disease is not usually serious, it can lead to a secondary infection of the skin if not properly treated. Fortunately, there are many effective ringworm treatment options.
Over the Counter Creams
Any over the counter ointment or cream used for treating athlete’s foot can be used to kill ringworm. Generally, it takes 3 weeks of regular application to cure the condition. Symptoms usually disappear earlier than that; but continued treatment is necessary to ensure that the fungus has been completely eliminated. Keeping the skin clean and dry is key for promoting healing and preventing recurrence. Dandruff shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione can be used as an overall daily body wash to limit the spread of the fungus as well. For ringworm of the scalp, shampoo with selenium sulfide as an active ingredient may also be recommended.
Iodine and gentian violet are both effective fungicides. Iodine is readily available from any drug store. Gentian violet is a little harder to find but can be located at some pharmacies. These liquid applications dry quickly once on the skin and leave a stain so that the treated area can be readily identified. For children with ringworm, using gentian violet can serve as a visual reminder “not to scratch the purple skin”. Bleach, nail polish, and other household substances are sometimes suggested on various message boards for killing ringworm. However, some of these chemicals are quite harsh and may damage healthy skin. Only dermatologist recommended fungicidal agents should be used for ringworm treatment.
Patients who choose to use over the counter or old fashioned remedies should seek medical attention if the symptoms do not get start getting better within a week, if they worsen, or if the ringworm spreads to other areas of the body. An oral fungicide may need to be prescribed for severe or chronic cases of ringworm or if the fungal infection is under the nails. Another reason to seek a dermatologist’s advice is because there are other medical conditions that can mimic this fungal infection. Some of these health problems can actually be aggravated by traditional forms of ringworm treatment.