Ringworm: how to identify, treat and (hopefully) avoid it

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Ringworm: how to identify, treat and (hopefully) avoid it

By Suzanne Carlile, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jun. 23, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.


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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Ringworm. Just the name of this infection is enough to make you feel squirmy, but it really has nothing to do with actual worms.

What it is and how it’s spread

Ringworm is a very contagious fungal infection on the surface of the skin. It appears as a scaly, red ring of small blisters, which may or may not itch, and grows outward as the infection spreads. The fungus lives off of dead tissues of your skin, hair and nails.

Typically, the fungus is spread through skin contact, but you can also become infected through skin-to-surface contact. Outbreaks are especially common in “communal areas like locker rooms and neighborhood pools,” according to WebMD, because “the fungus can linger in places like locker room floors, as well as on hats, combs and brushes.”

Dogs and cats infected with ringworm can also pass it to people through direct contact.

While ringworm can and does affect all age groups, the Mayo Clinic lists the following groups as most likely to become infected with the fungus: children under the age of 15, people with weak immune systems, those who live in damp or humid conditions, and athletes who participate in close-contact sports.

What to do if you’ve got it

If you suspect you may have ringworm, you should consult your health care provider. He or she will probably recognize ringworm's characteristic rash immediately, but WebMD lists the following things a doctor may also do to ensure an accurate diagnosis:

  • Use a special light that can detect traces of fluorescent materials that occur in a ringworm infection.
  • Scrape a small sample of the affected area and review the sample under a microscope.
  • Obtain a culture to identify the organism and medication needed for treatment.
No one particular treatment has proven effective in getting rid of ringworm. What works for one person may not work for another, but here are some products you may find helpful:

Ask Nurse Suzy
Do you have a question for Nurse Suzy, or maybe a topic you'd like her opinion on? Email her at nursesuzyksl@gmail.com.

  • Blue Star Ointment
  • Liquid wart remover
  • Dermovate cream
  • Neem oil
  • Black walnut extract
  • Selsun Blue shampoo
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lotrimin Ultra cream
  • Prescription Lamisil or Nizoral
  • Prescription 2 percent ketoconazole shampoo
  • Home remedy: mix equal amounts sulphur and lard and apply to the infected area

How to avoid getting it

As with most ailments, prevention is your best option. When dealing with ringworm, that means good personal hygiene. Wash your hands when you leave a locker room or swimming pool; don’t share personal items — such as hats, combs and clothing; and avoid physical contact with infected people.


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About the Author: Suzanne Carlile ---------------------------------

Suzanne Carlile, "Nurse Suzy," has been a nurse since 1982. Her main focus is critical care and nursing education. She holds a master's degree in nursing, is a Certified Emergency Nurse, and a member of NNSDO Intermountain West Chapter.

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