What Is Ringworm and How Is It Transmitted?

What Is Ringworm and How Is It Transmitted?

Jan 17
What Is Ringworm and How Is It Transmitted?

What is ringworm? Is it contagious and how does it spread? Read on this article to know.

Globally, ringworm affects 20- 25% of the population at any given time. It is more prevalent in children than in other people. The infection ringworm can be annoying and uncomfortable. But good treatment options are available to reduce symptoms and prevent recurrence.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a common skin condition. It can infect many parts of your body, including the scalp, hands, groin, nails and feet. Ringworm of the feet is most commonly known as athlete’s foot. Ringworm of the groin is known as jock itch, which usually affects men.

Ringworm can infect animals as well. These include dogs, cats, pigs, hamsters, calves and horses. Often, they pick up the infection from direct contact with an infected animal.

Ringworm of the feet

Ringworm of the feet


Because of its name, many people think that ringworm is caused by a worm. But this idea is wrong, as ringworm is caused by a type of fungus called tinea. This fungus lives in the soil, and on humans or animals. In humans, it thrives in moist, warm area of the body and feeds on dead tissues of the skin, hair and nails.


Symptoms of ringworm can vary, depending on its location on the body. But they generally include:

  • Ring-shaped rash
  • Raised, red, scaly patch of skin
  • Cracked skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Hair loss

These symptoms often appear within the first two weeks after exposure to fungus.

Ringworm of the scalp can cause red, itchy, scaly, circular bald spots on the head. They can develop in size and number if not treated properly.

Ringworm of the feet affects skin between the toes, the sole and heel of the foot. It causes a red, swollen, itchy rash and cracked, peeling skin. In severe cases, sores or blisters can occur on the feet.

Ringworm of the groin can also affect the genitals, inner thighs, buttocks and anus. It causes scaly, itchy, red spots on the skin.

Ringworm often forms a ring-shaped rash

Ringworm often forms a ring-shaped rash

Risk factors

Ringworm is very common, especially in tropical areas and during hot, humid weather. Anyone can get the infection, but you can be more at risk if you:

  • Wear tight shoes
  • Have excessive sweating
  • Use public showers or locker rooms
  • Have close contact with a person or animal that has ringworm
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Not wash your hands and body frequently
  • Have a minor skin or nail injury

Fungus is everywhere, so you must be careful, because you can catch it at any time.

Learn more: 7 Skin Conditions That Can Be Mistaken for Ringworm

How is ringworm transmitted?

Like other types of fungal skin infections, ringworm is very contagious.


Ringworm can spread from person to person, animal to person and from one area to other areas of the body. This can occur both by direct and indirect ways, for example:

Person to person. Direct, skin-to-skin contact can make ringworm spread to other people.

Animal to person. If you touch an animal with ringworm, you will be likely to contract it, too.

Object to person. Touching clothing, towel or an object that has fungus can also spread ringworm.

Soil to person. If you are exposed to infected soil, you are likely to develop ringworm.

One area to other areas. Ringworm of the feet (athlete’s foot) can spread to the groin and cause jock itch.

Several lifestyle habits and behaviors can make ringworm spread easily. These are:

  • Share clothing, bedding or towels with others
  • Walk barefoot in public areas
  • Wash socks and underwear together
  • Not wash your hands after touching pets and soil
Ringworm is contagious by direct and indirect contact

Ringworm is contagious by direct and indirect contact


Ringworm can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications. Fugacil, for example, can cure ringworm within a few days. Besides, it can reduce the chance of recurrence.

If ringworm does not respond to OTC medication, ask a doctor about a stronger medication. It can be found in topical or oral form, including:


  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)


  • Miconazole (Monistat-Derm)
  • Econazole (Spectazole)


It is possible to prevent ringworm infections. You can take the following tips to protect yourself and your pet:

  • Have good hygiene
  • Do not share clothing or personal items
  • Frequently washing your clothes and bedding in hot, soapy water
  • Change your socks and underwear everyday
  • Keep your fingernails and toenails short and clean
  • Thoroughly dry your skin after bathing or showering
  • If your pet has ringworm, make sure to have it checked and treated by a vet
  • Clean your house regularly
  • Not go barefoot outside

Children are most at risk of ringworm. So, take care of your child and tell them not walk barefoot or share personal items with other people.

Learn more: How Does Ringworm Affect a Child?



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