Ringworm, also called tinea corporis, is a common skin infection. It’s caused by a fungus, not a worm. Ringworm most often creates a red, itchy rash shaped like a ring. It spreads easily and is very contagious. Ringworm is also known as “athlete’s foot” on the feet and “jock itch” on the groin. Ringworm may affect the skin, scalp, feet, hands, groin, beard or nails.

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What causes ringworm?

The various fungi that cause ringworm live off keratin, which is found in your skin, hair and nails. These fungi are stubborn and can thrive almost anywhere, including hard surfaces, carpets, towels, clothing and bedding.

You can get ringworm simply by touching a person or animal with it. Ringworm is especially common in pets. Your chances for infection go up if you touch ringworm with wet or injured skin. Ringworm likes damp places, so using a public shower, pool or gym equipment can also expose you to it. Children often get ringworm by sharing toys that aren’t cleaned.

What are symptoms of ringworm?

Common symptoms include:

  • Itchy, flaky skin
  • Ring-shaped rash
  • Red, scaly or cracked skin
  • Itchy, scaly or bumpy patches of skin
  • Hair loss (with ringworm on the scalp)
  • Brittle, discolored nails

How is ringworm treated?

In mild cases, over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments can treat skin infections. If over-the-counter treatments don’t get rid of ringworm, your healthcare provider may suggest a prescription-strength antifungal cream.

If you have ringworm on the scalp, see a healthcare provider right away for a prescription antifungal medicine. You will also need a prescription medicine to treat ringworm under your nails.

You can lower your risk of infection with a few simple changes:

  • Avoid clothing that irritates the infection
  • Wash bedding and clothing every day
  • Clean and dry your skin often
  • Wash your hands after playing with pets
  • Do not share personal items, such as combs or clothing

If you or your child has ringworm on the scalp or if a skin rash doesn’t go away with over-the-counter creams, visit CareNow® urgent care for medical treatment. Our clinics are open seven days a week for walk-in patients.

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