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Ringworm is a contagious fungus infection that can affect the scalp, the body, the feet (athlete's foot), or the nails.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm is a contagious fungus infection that can affect the scalp, the body (particularly the groin), the feet, and the nails. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with worms. The name comes from the characteristic red ring that can appear on an infected person's skin. Ringworm is also called Tinea.
What is the infectious agent that causes Ringworm?
Ringworm is caused by several different fungus organisms that all belong to a group called "Dermatophytes." Different Dermatophytes affect different parts of the body and cause the various types of Ringworm:
Where is Ringworm found?
Ringworm is widespread around the world and in the United States. The fungus that causes scalp Ringworm lives in humans and animals. The fungus that causes Ringworm of the body lives in humans, animals, and soil. The fungi that cause Ringworm of the foot and Ringworm of the nails live only in humans.
How do people get Ringworm?
Ringworm is spread by either direct or indirect contact. People can get Ringworm by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or pet. People can also get Ringworm indirectly by contact with objects or surfaces that an infected person or pet has touched, such as hats, combs, brushes, bed linens, stuffed animals, telephones, gym mats, and shower stalls. In rare cases Ringworm can be spread by contact with soil.
What are the signs and symptoms of Ringworm?
Ringworm of the scalp usually begins as a small pimple that becomes larger, leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness. Infected hairs become brittle and break off easily. Yellowish crusty areas sometimes develop.
Ringworm of the body shows up as a flat, round patch anywhere on the skin except for the scalp and feet. The groin is a common area of infection (groin Ringworm). As the rash gradually expands, its center clears to produce a ring. More than one patch might appear, and the patches can overlap. The area is sometimes itchy.
Ringworm of the foot is also called athlete's foot. It appears as a scaling or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes.
Ringworm of the nails causes the affected nails to become thicker, discolored, and brittle, or to become chalky and disintegrate.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
Scalp Ringworm usually appears 10 to 14 days after contact, and Ringworm of the skin 4 to 10 days after contact. The time between exposure and symptoms isnot known for the other types of Ringworm.
How is Ringworm diagnosed?
A health-care provider can diagnose Ringworm by examining the site of infection with special tests.
Who is at risk for Ringworm?
Anyone can get Ringworm. Scalp Ringworm often strikes young children; outbreaks have been recognized in schools, day-care centers, and infant nurseries. School athletes are at risk for scalp Ringworm, Ringworm of the body, and foot Ringworm; there have been outbreaks among high school wrestling teams. Children with young pets are at increased risk for Ringworm of the body.
What is the treatment for Ringworm?
Ringworm can be treated with fungus-killing medicine. The medicine can be in taken in tablet or liquid form by mouth or as a cream applied directly to the affected area.
What complications can result from Ringworm?
Lack of or inadequate treatment can result in an infection that will not clear up.
Is Ringworm an emerging infection?
Although Ringworm is not tracked by health authorities, infections appear to be increasing steadily, especially among pre-school and school-age children. Early recognition and treatment are needed to slow the spread of infection and to prevent re-infection.
How can Ringworm be prevented?
Ringworm is difficult to prevent. The fungus is very common, and it is contagious even before symptoms appear.
Steps to prevent infection include the following:
Infected persons should follow these steps to keep the infection from spreading:
Children undergoing treatment may continue to attend school or daycare. After 48 hours of treatment, ringworm is not contagious at all. Your child doesn't have to miss any school or day care.