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What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus that can affect the scalp, skin, fingers, toenails or foot. The rash can appear to be one small ring or several separate C-shapes. It can be dry and scaly or wet and crusty. All types of ringworm infection will cause itching and irritation. Ringworm on the scalp will cause a bald spot with the infection in the center.

Who gets ringworm?

Anyone can get ringworm. Children may be more susceptible to certain species of ringworm while adults may be more susceptible to other varieties.

How are ringworm infections spread?

Transmission of the fungus can occur by direct skin-to-skin contact with infected people or pets, or indirectly by contact with items such as barber clippers, hair from infected people, shower stalls, or floors. Ringworm is easily spread by touch and can be transmitted from animals to humans. Animals with ringworm will often have a bald patch where the infection is.

What are the symptoms of ringworm infections?

Ringworm of the scalp usually begins as a small pimple, which becomes larger in size, leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness. Infected hairs become brittle and break off easily. Occasionally, yellowish crusty areas are seen. With ringworm of the nails, the infected nails become thicker, discolored and brittle, or they can become chalky and disintegrate. Ringworm of the body appears as flat, spreading ring-shaped areas. The edge is reddish and may be either dry and scaly or moist and crusted. As it spreads, the center area clears and appears normal. Ringworm of the foot appears as a scaling or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes.

How soon after infection do symptoms appear?

The incubation period is unknown for most types of ringworm, however ringworm of the scalp is usually seen 10 to 14 days after contact and ringworm of the body is seen 4 to 10 days after initial contact.

Does infection with ringworm make a person immune?

Since so many species of fungus can cause ringworm, infection with one species will not make a person immune to repeat infections.

What is the treatment for ringworm infections?

Your doctor may prescribe a fungicidal material to swallow as tablets, or powders that can be applied directly to the infected areas. Griseofulvin is commonly prescribed for treating fungus infections.

How can ringworm be prevented?

Towels, hats, and clothing from an infected individual should not be shared with others. Young children who are infected should have minimal close contact with other children until effectively treated.