Ringworm infection, scientifically known as dermatophytosis is a very common skin disease that can affect anyone. Contrary to its name, ringworm infection is not caused by a worm but rather by several fungi species.
Dermatophytes produced by the Microsporum and Trichophyton genera are the most common cause of ringworm infections.
What is a Ringworm Infection?
Ringworms appear as round lesions on the skin, characterized by a red, scaly border and a clear core.Dermatophytes, which cause ringworms thrive in warm and moist conditions and their main source of food is the protein keratin found in skin, nails and hair.
Ringworms are contagious and spread through skin contact with someone with the infection. Given that children tend to play and hangout close to each other, they are more prone to acquire a ringworm infection.
Touching items contaminated by the dermatophytes can increase the risk of a ringworm infection. Cats and dogs can also be carriers of the fungi and can transmit the infection to humans.
While ringworms are not a fatal skin condition, they may increase your risk of contracting other skin problems and infections.
Ringworm Infection Symptoms
The symptoms of ringworms will vary depending on whether they form on the hands, face, scalp fingers, legs, feet, palms or the groin area. The specific infection usually derives its name from the term Tinea, which means ringworms, combined with the Latin word for the infected part of the body.
Here are some common ringworm infections and their accompanying symptoms:
- Tinea Barbae
This ringworm infection mainly affects patches of facial hair leading to inflammation, scaling and itching, causing loss of hair on the affected area of the face.
- Tinea Capitis
Tinea Capitis commonly affects children and mainly appears on the scalp. The ringworms tend to take the form of an itchy or scaly patch that is bald at the center.
- Tinea Pedis
When ringworms infect the feet, they can cause athlete’s foot or onychomycosis, a fungal nail infection. When ringworms affect the feet, the infections is known as Tinea Pedis and as Tinea Unguium when the nails are infected.
- Tinea Corporis
This ringworm infection affects the legs, arms and trunk. Symptoms include scaly inflamed patches or circular lesions that look like blisters.
- Tinea Cruris
Tinea Crusis is a ringworm infection of the groin area. This form of ringworm is commonly known as jock itch. Symptoms include itchy, raised patches that are reddish brown in color. The ringworms typically spread from the inner parts of the groin toward the thighs. The physical appearance of this infection may have similarities with a yeast infection or psoriasis.
Ringworm and Hair Loss
Sometimes, ringworm infections of the scalp may result in hair loss. Ringworm hair loss can be prevented by promptly treating the infection. Allowing the infection to go on for too long without treatment increases the risk of hair loss and if the infection is very severe, hair loss may be irreversible.
Causes of Ringworm Hair Loss
Fungi cause ringworms of the scalp. Classic symptoms include circular, scaly patches with broken hairs close to the scalp. Tinea Capitis may cause the affected patches of hair to break off easily and leave your scalp sore to the touch.
Effective treatment of the infection allows hair to grow back on the affected areas. But severe Tinea Capitis can result in permanent hair loss, a condition known as kerion.
What is Kerion?
Kerion is a condition in which the scalp becomes inflamed due to a ringworm infection. Affected areas of the scalp become inflamed and filled with pus, resulting in the formation of a thick yellow crust.
Inflammation of the scalp is usually painful and often causes hair to break off. Kerion also often results in scarring and hair may not grow back on the scarred areas. It is important to see a doctor immediately if you think you have Kerion symptoms.
How to Prevent Ringworm Hair Loss
To avoid hair loss from ringworms, your best bet is to protect yourself from catching a ringworm infection in the first place. Here are some recommendations:
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people infected by ringworms whenever possible.
- Bring your pet to the vet if you notice any scaly patches. Avoid handling your pet until it has had a diagnosis and received treatment. Domestic animals including rabbits, birds, dogs and cats can transmit ringworms to humans.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as hairbrushes and towels. When in shared public spaces such as shower rooms, wear sandals to protect yourself from ringworms of the feet. Ringworms affecting the feet can easily spread to other parts of the body such as the scalp.
- In the event that you already have a ringworm infection, the best way to stop hair loss is getting immediate treatment. Even if ringworms have affected another part of your body, immediate treatment will reduce the risk of the infection spreading to your scalp. Waiting until your ringworm infection causes scarring will result in permanent hair loss.
How to Get Rid of Ringworms
Home Remedies for Ringworms
Although ringworms can be quite embarrassing due to the constant itching, it is entirely possible to treat the condition using natural ringworm remedies and over the counter medication.
When left untreated, ringworm can lead to secondary infections as a result of skin breakage from intense scratching. Fortunately, you can use natural remedies at home to get rid of ringworm-causing fungus.
Here are some of the best home treatments for ringworms:
1.Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is effective at treating numerous skin conditions including acne, soothing rosacea symptoms and helping with the process of healing from cuts and burns.
Tea tree oil is also an excellent remedy for ringworms. The oil contains antifungal and antiseptic agents to combat against specific strains of fungus that cause ringworms.
How to use tea tree oil for ringworms:
Soak a cotton ball in tea tree oil. It is best to use undiluted tea tree oil for faster results. A mix of tea tree oil and lavender oil will create a potent antifungal treatment for the most stubborn ringworm infection.
Rub the soaked cotton ball on the affected areas ensuring that every ringworm is dabbed with oil.
Apply the tea tree oil treatment on the ringworms three times a day until the infection resolves
2. Lemongrass Tea
Lemon grass contains antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties, which minimize the growth of microbes on the skin. The potent properties of lemon grass prevent the spread of ringworms and fasten the recovery process.
Prepare lemongrass tea and drink at least three times a day to get rid of ringworms. You may also apply the used lemon grass tea bags on the ringworms to minimize itching.
Lemongrass is an astringent i.e. it causes the skin to contract therefore making the pores on infected skin smaller to allow blistered ringworms to dry out faster.
3. Olive Leaf
The leaf of an olive plant has powerful antifungal properties that can aid in eliminating dermatophytes that cause ringworms. A weak immune system is one of the risk factors for ringworm infections. Olive leaf extract is known to be a potent immune system booster, which can go a long way in helping your body to recover faster from a bout of ringworm infection.
For best results, take up to 250g of olive leaf extract thrice a day until the ringworms clear out. You should continue to consume the extract for at least an additional week after the infection has completely cleared to prevent chances of reoccurrence.
4. Garlic Extract
Garlic contains the antifungal compound ajoene, which is effective at eliminating ringworm-causing fungus.When mixed with honey and oil, garlic acts as a powerful home remedy for ringworms when applied directly to the skin.
How to use garlic for ringworms:
Crush several garlic cloves using a pestle and mortar.
Add one tablespoon of honey and olive oil to the garlic paste.
Apply the mixture to the area affected by ringworms and leave the paste on the affected for at least an hour before rinsing it off using warm water.
Apply this mixture up to 3 times a day for at least 4 weeks to allow the infection to heal completely.
5. Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is a powerful antibiotic containing natural ingredients that work to fight off microorganisms that cause diseases including skin infections such as ringworms.
Available in herbal stores, colloidal silver comes in liquid or gel form so you can apply it topically on the areas of your skin infected with ringworms.
Apply at least 2 times a day for best results.Continue with this topical application for at least 4 weeks to completely get rid of the infection.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar and Salt
Salt is an astringent and works to dry up ringworm patches. Mixing salt with apple cider vinegar results in an antifungal paste that kills the fungus that causes ringworms.
Vinegar creates an acidic environment that is hostile to fungus. Continued application of this vinegar + salt paste will eventually kill the fungus and allow the ringworms to heal.
How to use salt and apple cider vinegar for ringworms
Make a paste by mixing 1 tablespoon of salt and apple cider vinegar. Apply the paste directly to the infected areas and let it sit for at least five minutes before rinsing with warm water. Use this treatment up to 3 times a day until the infection resolves.
Alternatively, fill a quarter cup with sea salt and pour the salt into a basin of diluted apple cider vinegar. Use this solution to soak the infected area for about an hour.
Repeat this treatment procedure twice a day to soothe the itchiness from ringworm and to accelerate the recovery process.
For thousands of years, Myrrh has been used as a natural treatment for skin disorders. Myrrh essential oil contains antifungal properties and acts as an astringent, helping to get rid of fungal skin infections and to quicken the healing process.
How to use myrrh for ringworms
Mix the essential oil with goldenseal in equal parts and dilute with a few drops of water.
Apply the mixture to the affected area three times every day to eliminate the fungus and soothe inflammation on the affected areas.
Myrrh solution, sold in health stores is also a great alternative that you can use to rinse rashes caused by ringworms.
Turmeric is not only popular for its culinary purposes; communities in the East have used turmeric root for thousands of years to treat skin infections. This spice has powerful antibiotic properties that can fight off the fungus that causes ringworms.
How to use turmeric for ringworms
Make a thick paste by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric with a tablespoon of water. Spread this mixture over the areas affected by ringworms and allow it to set for about 30 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
For best results, continue applying the turmeric paste regularly until the infection resolves.
You could also prepare turmeric juice at home using a blender or juicer. Apply the juice on the ringworm-infected areas at least thrice a day until the infection disappears.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is hailed as a miracle oil as it can soothe and quicken the healing process of many skin diseases.Lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid, is the primary active element contained in coconut oil. Lauric acid destroys the outer cell membrane of many fungus species, including those that cause ringworms.
How to use coconut oil for ringworms
Dab about 5 drops of coconut oil on a ball of cotton wool and apply on the affected areas.
Work the coconut oil into the skin pores by messaging the oil over the infected areas.
Leave the coconut oil on the skin overnight and rinse it off the next day.
Implement this routine for at least 4 weeks to completely cure the ringworms.
10. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the most popular compounds found in cosmetic and beauty products due to is benefits to the skin. As a home remedy for ringworms, Aloe vera certainly works like a charm.
How to use Aloe vera for ringworms
Cut a fresh Aloe vera leaf open to expose the gel.
Apply the gel on the affected area and leave it on overnight; rinse it off the next morning.
Repeat this treatment regime at least twice a day and you will see significant improvements to your ringworm infection in just a few days.
11. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seed helps to relieve itchiness and inflammation caused by ringworms. As such, mustard seed is a wonderful remedy for preventing possible secondary infections that could result from severe scratching and skin breakage.
How to use mustard seed for ringworms
To get rid of ringworms using mustard seed, soak a tablespoon of the seed in a bowl of warm water overnight.
Using a pestle and mortar, grind the mustard seeds into a paste the next morning.
Apply the mustard seed paste on the affected areas and leave it on for about an hour then rinse it off using warm water.
Use this treatment at least once a day for 2 weeks.
12. Jojoba and Lavender Oil
Lavender and jojoba essential oils offer therapeutic benefits to the skin and are especially gentle for babies and children’s skin. Lavender has potent antifungal properties and aids in eliminating dermatophytes that cause ringworms.
How to use jojoba and lavender oil for ringworms
Mix a single drop of lavender oil with a teaspoon of jojoba oil.
Dab the oils on the affected areas using a cotton ball.• Allow the oils to settle into the area of the skin that is affected by ringworms for about 3 minutes.
Apply your jojoba and lavender essential oils mixture at least 3 times each day for 4 weeks until the ringworms clear out.
Medication for Ringworms
In case you have severe and stubborn ringworms that will not be healed by home remedies, you can turn to medical treatments. Some of the antifungal treatments can be bought over the counter but others may require a prescription from the doctor. Ringworm medications are available as:
1. Antifungal Shampoos
Antifungal shampoos are excellent for ringworm infections of the scalp. Shampoos for ringworm will not cure the infection but they are effective at preventing the infection from spreading and speeding up the recovery process.
Selenium sulphide and ketoconazole are some of the antifungal shampoos than do not require a doctor’s prescription. Generally, you would need to clean your scalp using the shampoo at least 2 times a week for not less than 14 days.
2. Topical Medicines
You can treat ringworm infection with antifungal topical gels, creams, sprays or powders, most of which can be bought over the counter.
It is best to buy topical medicines that contain natural ingredients such as Phytozine or synthetic formulations such as terbinafine, micoazole econazole etc.
Some topical fungicides contain anti-itch formulations that help to dry out inflamed and blistery ringworms.To get rid of ringworms of the feet, also known as athlete’s foot, you can also use antifungal topical medications for ringworms. Antifungal nail polish is best used for treating nails infected by ringworms.
Ringworms typically take between 2 and 4 weeks to clear out with antifungal medications. To avoid reoccurrence of the infection, it is important that you adhere strictly to the recommended dose even if the ringworms start to clear out in a couple of days.
3. Oral Medicines
In the event that symptoms of ringworms do not resolve with shampoos and topical medications, seek immediate medical attention. If your doctor suspects that your infection could be more than common ringworms, they may take your skin sample for further examination to determine the exact fungus causing the infection.
Oral antifungal medicines such as Terbinafine, Fluconazole and Itraconazole can help to get rid of severe ringworms that persist for over 4 weeks.
How Prevent the Spread and Recurrence of Ringworms
Ringworms are contagious and reoccurrence is very possible if the fungus is not completely destroyed. Home remedies, topical applications and in severe cases, oral medicines can help to get rid of ringworm.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from ringworms in the first place:
To avoid hair loss from ringworms, your best bet is to protect yourself from catching a ringworm infection in the first place. Here are some recommendations:
- Do not share personal items such as clothes, brushes and towels.
- Always ensure your hair stylist or barber sterilizes their tools before using these on your scalp.
- Avoid scratching ringworms as this can trigger a spread of the infection to other parts of the body.
- Maintain good personal hygiene for example by using antifungal soap for cleaning your hands and bathing to prevent the spread of ringworms.
- Avoid getting into contact with pets that have ringworms and have the pet treated immediately.
- When in shared spaces such as changing rooms, always wear protective footwear to avoid contracting ringworms of the foot.
- Start treatment of a ringworm infection as soon as possible to avoid severe effect such as hair loss and secondary infections.
- Be sure to complete the recommended dosage to prevent reoccurrence of ringworms.