Ringworm is a skin infection that occurs when a certain type of fungus invades the skin and causes itchiness and pain around the affected part of the body. The infection is typically marked by red circular rings of rash over the skin. The formation of rash is very annoying as it causes a lot of irritation. Ringworm skin infection can infect the following body parts:
- Skin (arms and legs)
- Feet (toes)(Athlete's foot)
Is ringworm contagious? Unfortunately, ringworm is contagious, and to stop the spread of infection, timely treatment is extremely important. Avoiding skin contact with the infected person is the best way to stop it from spreading. Also, one must not use objects such as combs, brushes and hats, that are used by people suffering from ringworm.
Symptoms of the infection will depend on the site of occurrence. To be specific, symptoms visible are different when the fungus affects the nails and the body or scalp. Also, the strains of fungi involved in causing the infection are not the same. For instance, the one that affects the toe or finger nails is known as 'Tinea unguium'. On the other hand, body fungal infection that affects the face, hands, legs and torso is triggered by Tinea corposis. Scalp infection is caused by Tinea capitis, and also referred to as ringworm of the hair.
Body Fungus: Body fungus that usually strikes the limbs is marked by formation of ring or circular shaped patches of rash. The skin that is surrounded by round patchy appears quite normal. In other words, the skin at the center of this circular rash appears healthy and does not itch or cause any irritation. This is the most common type of ringworm infection as many cases diagnosed throughout the year show this red circle rash on the superficial skin.
Nail Fungus: Studies suggests that 50% of the nail abnormalities are due to fungal infection of the nail. Due to the infection, the nail texture changes completely. The nail plate is no longer smooth, it appear hard and may even get detached from the nail bed. Frequent exposure of hands and legs to water, previously damaged nails or a suppressed immune system are some of the risk factors of ringworm of the nail.
Scalp Fungus: Also known as scalp ringworm, the infection has been a primary contributor for causing premature hair loss. People who had earlier suffered from scalp injuries are more prone to developing this type of infection. Itchy scalp is the most common complaint among patients suffering from scalp ringworm. This ringworm infection of the scalp strikes the hair shaft and follicles, induces hair fall and with no treatment the person may soon develop one or multiple bald patches of varying size depending upon the severity of the infection. Thus, due to Tinea capitis, healthy locks of hair get eroded and are eventually replaced by oval or irregular shaped bald spots. For diagnosis, doctors may take few strands of hair or scrap the scalp area and then examine the sample under the microscope to detect the fungus.
There are a number of treatment options to ease the problem of ringworm in humans. Although, in many cases, ringworm in humans is harmless and not a major problem, leaving it untreated is not advised. This is because, it is observed that the infection becomes severe when left untreated. Also, delay in treatment will increase the healing period, and may also leave permanent marks, post recovery. Some of the popular options regarded as a cure for ringworm are given below:
- Antifungal creams
- Oral medicines
- Lamisil cream
- Desiten diaper ointment
- Lotrimin cream
- Nizoral cream
People using herbal remedies for ringworm have an edge over those taking commercial medicines. This is because herbal treatment is known to provide instant relief without giving any side effects. In other words, no harm to the body occurs by using herbal remedies. Some of the ringworm home remedies are given below:
Oregano Oil: The antifungal properties of oil helps to get rid of infection. Massaging the affected part with 2 - 3 drops of oregano oil is one of the best ways to cure ringworm. Massage it daily at least 3-4 times daily to subside the infection. In fact, within a day or two, this practice will improve the infection considerably. With oregano oil, the infection generally goes away within 7 days.
Garlic: Application of paste of herbs containing garlic has been extremely effective to eliminate bacteria and fungus causing this infection. A paste that is made by cutting 3-4 slices of garlic is an excellent herbal remedy to free the skin from the infection. Apply this paste generously, around 4 times a day, to speed up healing of the infected area. The excellent properties of garlic make it one of the best remedies for ringworm. Garlic, being an excellent antifungal agent promotes rapid healing of external infections like ringworm. Rubbing crushed garlic on the area infected with ringworm is a popular home remedy that can cure this skin infection.
Essential Oil: Essential oil is considered to be a natural cure for ringworm in humans. Put 3 - 4 drops of lavender oil onto the affected part and allow the skin to absorb it properly. For babies that are less than 1 year old, take a drop of lavender oil and mix it with a teaspoon of Jojoba Carrier Oil. Then apply it on their soft skin to get the desired result.
Tea Tree Oil: Another remedy is to mix tea tree oil (few drops) with olive or coconut oil and then apply it to the affected region. This combination can work wonders to destroy the fungus. Ointments that contain tea tree oil as an active ingredient are also very helpful to treat ringworm naturally. Basically, tea tree oil promotes skin dryness and also prevents the formation of pus and blisters on the rash.
Green Walnuts: This treatment involves cutting a green walnut and then applying it on the region inflicted with ringworm. Exercising this practice daily will kill the fungus gradually.
Apple Cider Vinegar: In this form of treatment, a piece of cloth is soaked in natural apple cider vinegar and then applied on the affected area for approximately 15 minutes, many times daily to fix the problem.
Mustard Seeds: Prepare a paste of mustard seeds, but before applying it, wash the skin thoroughly with hot water.
Turmeric: A natural way to heal ringworm is to apply a paste made by mixing turmeric ointment with the same amount of honey. Application of raw turmeric juice on the skin can also speed up the healing of ringworm infection.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): GSE that contains 50% glycerol is commonly used to treat skin problems like acne and ringworm. Rubbing some amount of extract on ringworm patches can reduce the infection considerably. Once it is done, cover the affected portion with a band-aid. GSE may cause slight irritation but is a quick remedy to get rid of ringworm.
Butea Seeds: Use of butea seeds is a well-known remedy for ringworm. Mix grounded butea seeds with fresh lime juice. Applying this portion over the lesions can restrict the growth of fungi.
Raw Papaya: Cut slices of raw papaya and then rub them one by one on the rash. Let each of the slices remain for around 10 - 15 minutes on the affected part and then wash it with warm water. Raw papaya contains enzymes that is capable of destroying the fungus, causing ringworm.
Mustard Seeds: An effective natural remedy for this skin infection is mustard seeds. Firstly, wash the rash with warm water. A paste made from mustard seeds is then applied externally over the lesions to cure ringworm in humans.
Holy Basil: Holy basil leaves have earned a good reputation of curing ringworm in humans. External application of juice extracted from these leaves on the affected portion of the skin several times in a day can help to get rid of the infection.
Cassia Leaves: Making a paste or extract of the juice of cassia leaves can bring a great deal of improvement to the condition. The leaves play a key role to reduce the pain and swelling associated with ringworm infection.
How to Treat Scalp Ringworm
Scalp ringworm infection is often observed among children. Individuals with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable to this infection. This fungal scalp infection triggers the formation of red, circular, itchy patches that eventually become devoid of hair. The fungi affect the root of the hair, thereby making them brittle. If left untreated, the circular patches of broken hair will increase in size, which may lead to permanent hair loss. Treatment for scalp ringworm that generally lasts for a period of 8 - 10 weeks involves use of the following oral medications:
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Griseofulvin (Grifulvin)
How to Treat Nail Ringworm
Curing nail ringworm can be tedious because this form of infection does not respond well to treatment. This in turn slows the pace of the nail's recovery. Another cause of worry is that the infection spreads to other nails very quickly. The appearance of nails change to greeny-grey, making them brittle and thick. Antifungal tablets such as Lamisil are often prescribed. Prolonged use of these tablets can affect the patient's health. So, in some cases, the affected nail is cut and then the nail bed is treated with nail solutions like tioconazole (Trosyl) and amorolfine (Loceryl nail lacquer), which act as powerful fungicides. Another useful treatment is to soak the nail with small amounts of grapefruit seed extract (few drops) and then add few drops of Tea tree oil. This combination can successfully pass into the nail bed which helps to cure the infection.
Treating Ringworm in Children
Ringworm in children is more common than in adults. Children with ringworm show a red itchy rash on the skin. Generally, children catch ringworm while playing with infected dogs or cats. Use of prescription topical creams like Spectazole and Oxistat is many times sufficient to get rid of ringworm. It is often observed that the infection in children is mildly contagious, so there is no need to remain absent from school.
One very important point to note, is that along with the recommended treatment, maintaining cleanliness of the infected skin is equally important. Exposing the area to dirt or sweat can worsen the condition. Therefore, ensure that the area inflicted with the skin infection does not come in contact with the dirty cloth. Also, the use of harsh soaps and hot water to clean the infected portion should be avoided, as it can make matters worse.