Does ringworm look like

how do we know if the ringworm treatment is working??

My neice has ring worms all around her as of this day. I didn’t think much of it at first because in my mind it started as red patches and not rings so I started to put Cortizone. I wasn’t knowledgeable to know how it started to look like before it starting showing the red rings. Then the school called me and told me she had rings all over her legs and they were ring worms and she had to stay home all weekend. To return on Monday and they will check it and if had gotten somewhat clear by then she will be able to return to school. She also instructed me to use athlete’s door cream and/or athlete’s foot powder. So I bought both from the dollar store. I have her take a shower twice a day and apply the cream in the morning, buy at night I use the powder. Also I always use gloves. I put her dirty clothes in a separate bag and automatically straight into the laundry room. Anyways, after I applied the cream the first day I noticed her skin started to peel (which is normal) and get a little clear after checking it the next morning. Still there were some rediness and rings in some places but, mostly pinkish in most places. That’s how I know it was taking affect on a fast time frame. I have been using it for 2 days now and her skin is peeling even heavier. Which was even more excellent because now it was defiantly less or non contagious within the 2 days of use of the athlete’s door cream and powder. She will be okay to return to school on Monday and stay. Within 2 weeks to a month she will be okay and probably ring worm free infected, but those rings will look pail and/or pinkish (not red) in due time. It’s like a bruise that takes time to heal up to be unnoticeable, but more or a slower process. You could also try “Apple Cider Vinegar” Well I hope this is helpful. Let me know how it goes or went if you still are having ring worms. Good luck! ??????

Symptoms of Ringworm Infections

Ringworm can affect skin on almost any part of the body as well as fingernails and toenails. The symptoms of ringworm often depend on which part of the body is infected, but they generally include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Ring-shaped rash
  • Red, scaly, cracked skin
  • Hair loss

Symptoms typically appear between 4 and 14 days after the skin comes in contact with the fungi that cause ringworm.

Symptoms of ringworm by location on the body:

  • Feet (tinea pedis or “athlete’s foot”): The symptoms of ringworm on the feet include red, swollen, peeling, itchy skin between the toes (especially between the pinky toe and the one next to it). The sole and heel of the foot may also be affected. In severe cases, the skin on the feet can blister.
  • Scalp (tinea capitis): Ringworm on the scalp usually looks like a scaly, itchy, red, circular bald spot. The bald spot can grow in size and multiple spots might develop if the infection spreads. Ringworm on the scalp is more common in children than it is in adults.
  • Groin (tinea cruris or “jock itch”): Ringworm on the groin looks like scaly, itchy, red spots, usually on the inner sides of the skin folds of the thigh.
  • Beard (tinea barbae): Symptoms of ringworm on the beard include scaly, itchy, red spots on the cheeks, chin, and upper neck. The spots might become crusted over or filled with pus, and the affected hair might fall out.

Next: Learn about people at risk and how to prevent >


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What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a type of fungal skin infection. When fungi infect the skin, they cause mild but annoying rashes. Fungal skin infections are also known as tinea infections.

When fungus grows in the area of the groin, upper thighs, and buttocks, it is called jock itch. When it grows on the feet, it is called athlete’s foot.

But when fungus grows anywhere else on the body, it’s known as ringworm. Its medical name is tinea capitis when it’s on the scalp, and tinea corporis when it’s on the rest of the body. On the nails it is known as onychomycosis.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Ringworm?

Ringworm on the skin starts as a red, scaly patch or bump. Over time, it may look like one or more rings with raised, bumpy, scaly borders (the center is often clear). This ring pattern gave ringworm its name, but not every infected person has it. The skin may flake, peel, or crack, and it can itch, sting, burn, or feel uncomfortable.

Ringworm on the scalp may start as a small sore that looks like a pimple before becoming patchy, flaky, or scaly. These flakes may look like dandruff. It can make some hair fall out or break into stubble, leaving a bald spot. It also can make the scalp swollen, tender, and red.

Sometimes, it causes a pus-filled mass known as a kerion. When the scalp is infected, it can cause swollen lymph nodes at the back of the head or neck.

Ringworm on the nails may affect one or more nails on the hands or feet. The nails may become thick, white or yellowish, and brittle.

What Causes Ringworm?

Ringworm is caused by fungi that normally live on the skin, hair, and nails called dermatophytes (pronounced: der-MAH-tuh-fites). When the environment they live in gets warm and moist, they grow out of control and start to cause symptoms.

Is Ringworm Contagious?

Yes. Ringworm can spread:

  • from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact, especially in warm, damp environments
  • to other areas of the body if a person touches the affected area and then touches other body parts, such as the hands
  • from animals to people

How Do People Get Ringworm?

Besides spreading from person to person, ringworm can come from pets or other animals (usually cats, dogs, or rodents). It thrives in warm, moist environments such as public showers, locker rooms, or pool areas. It can spread easily when people are in close physical contact. That’s why it’s common in people who play contact sports such as wrestling. It can also be passed on objects like combs, brushes, hats, towels, or clothing.

Minor skin injuries (such as scratches), too much exposure to heat and humidity, and some health conditions (such as diabetes, obesity, or immune system problems) can make a person more likely to get ringworm.

How Is Ringworm Diagnosed?

A doctor can often diagnose ringworm just by looking at it and asking questions about the symptoms and your lifestyle. Sometimes the doctor will scrape off a small sample of the flaky infected skin to look at under a microscope or to test in a laboratory.

How Is Ringworm Treated?

Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, sprays, or powders may solve a mild infection. More serious infections may need prescription medicine, either topical (put on skin) or in pill/syrup form.

Ringworm on the nails or scalp usually is treated with medicine taken by mouth for 1 to 3 months. An antifungal shampoo prescribed by the doctor can help prevent the spread to other people.

Use the medicine as long as is recommended, even if the rash seems to be getting better. If not, the infection can come back and spread to other parts of the body.

To help heal the skin, it’s important to keep the affected area clean and dry. You should:

  • Wash and then dry the area with a clean towel. (Use a separate clean towel for the rest of your body.)
  • Apply the antifungal cream, powder, or spray as directed on the label.
  • Change clothing every day.
  • Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot.

How Long Does Ringworm Last?

Most mild cases of ringworm usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks. But treatment might be needed for up to 3 months if the infection is more serious, or affects the nails or the scalp.

Can Ringworm Be Prevented?

Ringworm can often be prevented. To avoid it:

  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Wash daily and dry completely, particularly after showering, swimming, and sweaty activities.
  • Use clean towels and avoid sharing clothing, towels, combs, brushes, and hats.
  • Wash sports gear and uniforms as often as possible and don’t share them.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  • Change your clothes every day.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after playing with pets.
  • Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot.

Reviewed by: Michelle P. Tellado, MD Date reviewed: September 2019

Ringworm (Tinea)

What Is It?

Published: March, 2019

Ringworm, also called tinea, is a skin infection caused by fungi, microscopic organisms that are similar to yeast and molds. It does not have any relation to worms, but is called “ringworm” because the infection can produce ring-shaped patches on the skin that have red, wormlike edges.

Although ringworm can affect almost any area of the body, it favors places that are warm, dark and moist, such as skin in the groin area, the spaces between the toes and the deep skin folds of obese people. People can catch ringworm in several different ways, including:

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How to identify psoriasis and ringworm

Share on PinterestRingworm, pictured here, is often circular. The shape of psoriasis may be less regular.

Both psoriasis and ringworm can cause red, scaly patches to appear anywhere on the body. Both can also lead to intense itching.

A person who has never had ringworm before or is having their first psoriasis flare may not know which condition they have.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. It causes red, scaly plaques that may have a gray hue or peel. During a psoriasis flare, a person develops scaly, red, irritated patches of skin because of the skin’s rapid shedding.

Psoriasis is not contagious. Researchers are not sure what causes psoriasis, but it tends to run in families. Certain factors, such as stress or alcohol, can trigger a flare.

Ringworm causes a red, circular, and often scaly rash. Ringworm is highly contagious, spreading quickly through contact with another person who has the condition.

A fungal infection causes ringworm. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with worms.

Both psoriasis and ringworm can develop in similar places. One type of psoriasis called inverse psoriasis can affect the area around the groin. When ringworm affects the groin area, it is called jock itch.

Psoriasis often affects the scalp. When ringworm affects the scalp, it is called tinea capitis.

Some important distinctions between psoriasis and ringworm include:

The shape of the rash

Ringworm is often circular. It typically begins as a rash with a clearly defined border that looks like there is a worm under the skin. The center of the rash appears sunken and may be gray or scaly.

While psoriasis rashes can also be round, the shape is less regular and does not resemble a worm.

Rash risk factors

People develop ringworm after coming into contact with someone else who has the infection. Children, anyone in close contact with children, and people who come into contact with others, such as at the gym, are more likely to get the infection.

Psoriasis is not contagious and can affect anyone.

Rash growth

Psoriasis plaques may spread, appearing on one area of the body and then another.

Ringworm grows larger over several days and can spread to other areas of the body.

Changes in the rash

Unlike ringworm, psoriasis plaques can change in color and texture. They are often red at first and then may become grey and scaly, or crack and bleed.

How the rash feels

Both ringworm and psoriasis rashes are itchy, but the ringworm itch is often more intense. Psoriasis can be painful and may tingle or burn. Some people develop other symptoms with psoriasis, such as a fever or muscle aches.

What you need to know about ringworm

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Ringworm, or tinea, refers to several types of contagious fungal infections of the top layer of the skin, scalp, and nails.

It is called ringworm because the itchy, red rash has a ring-like appearance. However, ringworm is nothing to do with worms.

It can affect different parts of the body.

In this article, we will cover ringworm’s causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Fast facts on ringworm

Here are some key points about ringworm. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Ringworm is nothing to do with worms.
  • Ringworm is caused by a fungus that eats keratin, a protein found in skin, hair, and nails.
  • Children under 15 are particularly susceptible to ringworm.


Treatment depends on the type of ringworm:

Scalp ringworm

The most common treatments for scalp ringworm are oral antifungals (tablets). However, the choice of medication will depend on the type of fungi involved.

Terbinafine (Lamisil): The side effects are normally mild and do not last long. They may include diarrhea and nausea. People with a history of liver disease should not take terbinafine.

Griseofulvin (Grisovin): The side effects, which usually go away fairly quickly, may include headache, indigestion, and nausea.

Anti-fungal shampoos: These help prevent the spread of ringworm and may speed up recovery, but they do not cure it. Various anti-fungal shampoos are available for purchase online.

Shaving a child’s head: There is no evidence that this reduces ringworm infection or accelerates recovery time.

Skin ringworm and groin infection

Most cases are treated with anti-fungal creams. Individuals should read instructions carefully – anti-fungal creams do not all have the same instructions. These can be purchased over-the-counter or online.

If symptoms are severe, or if they cover a large area of the body and do not respond to OTC medications, the doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength topical medication.

The doctor may prescribe an oral medication (taken by mouth). Oral medications can have some side effects, including stomach upset, rash, or abnormal liver function.

Caring for the skin during infection

Share on PinterestIt is important to wash the area gently.

Care for the skin properly can help speed recovery.

  • Wash the skin gently
  • Dry the skin thoroughly but gently.
  • Pat the skin with a towel in tender areas, but do not rub.
  • Make sure any folds and areas between the toes are dried thoroughly.
  • Change sock or underwear more often than usual if they cover an infected area.
  • Always treat the feet and groin at the same time, as infection often spreads from one area to another.
  • Where possible, wear loose-fitting clothing and undergarments, such as boxers.


Different types of ringworm affect different parts of the body.

  • Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis): This is most common in younger children, and occasionally it affects adults. It is more common in urban environments where people live closer together, giving the fungus more opportunities to spread.
  • Body (skin) ringworm (tinea corporis): This can affect infants, children, and adults.
  • Groin infections (tinea cruris): Also known as jock itch, this is more common among young men.
  • Tinea pedis: Athlete’s foot is a common foot infection.
  • Tinea unguium: Also known as onychomycosis, it is an infection of the nail bed.
  • Ringworm in the beard area: This affects males who can grow facial hair, and it often results from contact with an animal that has ringworm.

Different types have different symptoms.

  • small patches of scaly skin appear on the scalp.
  • patches may feel tender or painful and be inflamed.
  • hair breaks away on or near the patches
  • kerion, or large inflamed sores, form on the scalp, and they may ooze pus

The person may have a temperature and swollen glands or lymph nodes, but this is uncommon.

Body or skin ringworm

Symptoms include:

  • a rash with a ring-like appearance
  • the skin may be red and inflamed around the outside of the ring, but look fine in the middle
  • merging rings
  • rings feel slightly raised
  • itchiness, especially under the rash.

Groin infection

There may be:

  • itchiness, especially in and around the groin
  • redness and a burning sensation in the affected area
  • flaky and scaly skin on the inner thighs
  • symptoms worsen when walking, running, or exercising
  • tight clothing makes symptoms worse

Beard area

This can involve:

  • redness, swelling, and pus-filled bumps
  • hair loss, which usually resolves after treatment
  • swollen glands
  • raw, open skin and raised, soft, spongy patches that weep
  • tiredness


Fungal infections rarely spread below the surface of the skin. The risk of any serious illness is very small. However, without treatment, ringworm can spread from one part of the body to another.

If the skin is broken, bacteria may enter and cause an infection.

People with HIV and other conditions that weaken the immune system are more likely to experience a spreading of ringworm. It is more difficult to get rid of the infection if the immune system is weak.



Ringworm is caused by a type of fungus that eats keratin. These are called dermatophytes.

Dermatophytes attack the skin, scalp, hair, and nails because those are the only parts of the body with enough keratin to attract them.

Dermatophytes are microscopic spores that can survive on the surface of the skin for months. They can also survive in towels, combs, the soil, and other household objects. They are very resilient.

Dermatophyte spores spread in the following ways:

  • human-to-human
  • animal-to-human
  • object-to-human

If a person or animal has the infection, they may deposit fungal spores on objects and surfaces when they touch them; anyone who touches those objects may become infected.

Children usually show symptoms when they become infected, but many adults do not. The older an individual is, the more likely their immune system will protect them. However, they may still be a carrier.

Risk factors

The following risk factors either increase the chances of developing ringworm or make the symptoms worse:

  • being aged under 15 years
  • having a weakened immune system
  • using medications that lower the immune system
  • living in a warm, humid climate
  • being close to people or animals that are infected
  • sharing clothing or towels with someone who has the infection
  • having hyperhidrosis, a condition where the individual sweats more than usual
  • playing contact sports, for instance, wrestling
  • wearing tight clothing


The stages in which ringworm develops depend on the type of ringworm.

On the body, patches grow slowly in size, and more patches can appear on other parts of the body. The center of the patch may clear, leaving a ring. If there are several rings, they may merge.

Athletes foot tends to start between the toes before spreading to the bottom or sides of the feet, or both. The skin between the toes can then turn white and become soft.

On the nails, ringworm starts with a thickening of the skin under the nail, followed by a thickening and discoloration of the nails. Over time, the nails will lift, crumble, and disappear.

In the groin, the first sign is usually an itchy rash in the crease where the leg meets the body. This can spread to the groin, the inner thigh, the waist, and the buttocks.


Share on PinterestDiagnosis of ringworm can often be made from a visual examination.

A doctor can normally diagnose ringworm or a groin infection after examining the affected area and asking the patient about their medical history and symptoms.

They may take a small scraping of the skin, which will not hurt, and examine it under a microscope to look for characteristics of fungi.

The doctor will assess whether the skin problem is being caused by some other disorder, such as psoriasis. Further testing is not usually needed unless symptoms are particularly severe.

If symptoms have not improved after treatment, the doctor may remove a small piece of infected skin and send it to the lab to be analyzed.


The following tips may help prevent ringworm if it occurs in a household:

  • If a pet is the source of the infection, it should be treated by a vet.
  • Everyone should wash their hands regularly and thoroughly with soap.
  • All household members should check themselves for signs of ringworm.
  • People should not share combs, hairbrushes, clothing, bed linen, towels, or footwear.
  • Anyone who has ringworm should not scratch affected areas as this increases the risk of spreading the infection.
  • People should avoid walking around the house with bare feet.
  • Clothes should be washed in hot water with fungicidal soap.

Keeping cool and wearing loose clothing may help reduce the risk.

Ringworm and other fungal infections

Most tinea fungal infections, including ringworm, are easily treated by using antifungal creams, tablets or shampoo. You can also help to get rid of fungal infections and stop them from spreading by:

  • washing areas of affected skin daily and drying thoroughly, paying particular attention to skin folds and between your toes
  • in the case of a groin/foot infection, changing your underwear/socks daily, because fungi can persist in flakes of skin
  • with a scalp infection, not sharing combs, hairbrushes or hats
  • washing clothes, towels and bed linen frequently
  • wearing loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton or other natural materials

Read more about preventing ringworm.

Ringworm, groin infections and athlete’s foot

Most cases of ringworm, groin infections and athlete’s foot can be treated using an over-the-counter antifungal cream, gel or spray. There are lots of different types, so ask your pharmacist to help you choose the right one for you. You usually apply antifungal creams, gels and sprays daily to the affected areas of skin for two weeks. The cream, gel or spray should be applied over the rash and to one inch of skin beyond the edge of the rash. Read the manufacturer’s instructions first. You may be advised to use the treatment for a further two weeks, to reduce the risk of re-infection. See your GP if your symptoms have not improved after two weeks of treatment, because you may need to take antifungal tablets. Both terbinafine and griseofulvin tablets can be used to treat ringworm infections, as well as another antifungal medicine called itraconazole (see below).

Treat groin and feet together

Groin infections can sometimes occur at the same time as athlete’s foot. It’s vital to treat both infections at the same time to avoid being re-infected with either condition.

Fungal scalp infections

Scalp infections are usually treated using antifungal tablets, often alongside an antifungal shampoo. There are two main types of antifungal tablet:

  • terbinafine
  • griseofulvin

The antifungal medicine that your GP prescribes will depend on the type of fungi causing the infection.

Terbinafine tablets

Most people with fungal scalp infections are prescribed terbinafine tablets to take once a day for four weeks. It’s an effective treatment for most cases. Side effects of terbinafine can include:

  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • indigestion
  • rashes

These side effects are usually mild and short-lived. Some people have also reported that terbinafine temporarily affected their sense of taste.
Terbinafine is not suitable for people with a history of liver disease or lupus (where the immune system attacks healthy tissue).


Griseofulvin is a type of antifungal medicine that prevents fungi from growing and multiplying. It’s available in the form of a spray and is usually taken daily for 8-10 weeks. Side effects of griseofulvin can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • mild diarrhoea
  • headache
  • indigestion

However, these side effects should improve as your body gets used to the medicine. Griseofulvin can cause birth defects, so it shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy, or if you intend to become pregnant soon after stopping treatment. Men shouldn’t father a child within six months of stopping treatment. Griseofulvin is also not suitable for women who are breastfeeding, and those with severe liver disease or lupus. Griseofulvin can interfere with both the combined contraceptive pill and the progestogen-only pill, so women need to use an alternative barrier form of contraception, such as a condom, while taking it. Griseofulvin may also affect your ability to drive and can enhance the effects of alcohol.

Antifungal shampoo

Antifungal shampoo cannot cure scalp infections, but it can help to prevent the infection spreading and may speed up recovery. Antifungal shampoos, such as selenium sulphide and ketoconazole shampoo, are available from your pharmacist. Ideally, antifungal shampoo should be used twice a week during the first two weeks of treatment. There is no evidence that shaving a child’s head will reduce the risk of an infection or speed up recovery.


Itraconazole is usually prescribed in the form of capsules for 7 or 15 days. It is not recommended for use in children, elderly people or those with severe liver disease. Side effects of itraconazole can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • indigestion
  • diarrhoea
  • headache

Read about how to stop ringworm spreading or coming back.

Fungal nail infections

Fungal nail infections can be treated with antifungal nail paint, but it also often requires antifungal tablets. These tend to work better than nail paints, although they can cause side effects, such as headache, nausea and diarrhoea. Read more about treating fungal nail infections.

Ringworm Risk & Prevention

Who gets ringworm?

Ringworm is very common. Anyone can get ringworm, but people who have weakened immune systems may be especially at risk for infection and may have problems fighting off a ringworm infection.1 People who use public showers or locker rooms, athletes (particularly those who are involved in contact sports such as wrestling),2–4 people who wear tight shoes and have excessive sweating, and people who have close contact with animals may also be more likely to come in contact with the fungi that cause ringworm.

How can I prevent ringworm?

  • Keep your skin clean and dry.
  • Wear shoes that allow air to circulate freely around your feet.
  • Don’t walk barefoot in areas like locker rooms or public showers.
  • Clip your fingernails and toenails short and keep them clean.
  • Change your socks and underwear at least once a day.
  • Don’t share clothing, towels, sheets, or other personal items with someone who has ringworm.
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water after playing with pets. If you suspect that your pet has ringworm, take it to see a veterinarian. If your pet has ringworm, follow the steps below to prevent spreading the infection.
  • If you’re an athlete involved in close contact sports, shower immediately after your practice session or match, and keep all of your sports gear and uniform clean. Don’t share sports gear (helmet, etc.) with other players.

My pet has ringworm and I’m worried about ringworm in my house. What should I do?

Ringworm can easily transfer from animals to humans.5 You can take the following steps to protect yourself and your pet:

For people

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water after playing with or petting your pet.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves if you must handle animals with ringworm, and always wash your hands after handling the animal.
  • Vacuum the areas of the home that the infected pet commonly visits. This will help to remove infected fur or flakes of skin.
  • Disinfect areas the pet has spent time in, including surfaces and bedding.
    • The spores of this fungus can be killed with common disinfectants like diluted chlorine bleach (1/4 c per gallon water), benzalkonium chloride, or strong detergents.
    • Never mix cleaning products. This may cause harmful gases.

Do not handle animals with ringworm if your immune system is weak in any way (if you have HIV/AIDS, are undergoing cancer treatment, or are taking medications that suppress the immune system, for example).

For pets
Protect your pet’s health

  • If you suspect that your pet has ringworm, make sure it is seen by a veterinarian so treatment can be started.
  • If one of your pets has ringworm, make sure you have every pet in the household checked for ringworm infection.

Please .

Please .

There’s a ringworm outbreak in my child’s school/daycare center. What should I do?

  • Contact your local health department for more information.
  • Tell your child not to share personal items, such as clothing, hairbrushes, and hats, with other people.
  • Take your child to see a pediatrician if he or she develops ringworm symptoms.
  • Check with your child’s school or daycare to see if he or she can still attend classes or participate in athletics.

Next: Learn about the sources of ringworm >

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