What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a contagious fungus infection that can affect the scalp, the body (particularly the groin), the feet (athlete’s foot) or the nails. It is a common condition in young people and adults. People can get ringworm from direct skin to skin contact, by contact with the soil, or from pets and other animals. The fungi causing these infections are collectively known as Tinea.

What are the symptoms?
A red itchy rash occurs in the spaces between the toes or a scaly patch appears on the scalp. The infection on the body appears as a characteristic ring of redness on the arm or leg, and it itches. Sometimes the red skin furrows and becomes marked with ridges resembling chalked lines.

Common Tineal infections are:
* Tinea corpus: commonly affecting the chest, back arms or legs. It forms a red ring around an area of white unaffected skin. It is common in children who have close contact with animals.
* Tinea capitis: is also common among children and consists again of a red circle around unaffected skin on the scalp. Hair may be lost and regrowth may be patchy. In severe cases a swollen mass discharging pus, called a kerion, may form.
* Tinea pedis: also called athlete’s foot, is found as an itchy sore between the fourth and fifth toes, that goes soggy and white and starts to crack and peel. It spreads easily to other parts of the foot and to other people. It occurs frequently in warm, sweaty feet.
* Tinea unguium: affects the toe nails especially if the person has athlete’s foot. The nails become thickened and white or yellow in colour. If untreated, the nail will split and rise away from the nail bed, crumble and be lost.
* Tinea cruris: or ‘jock itch’ is common in men, especially those who are sporty, wear tight underwear, or who sit on plastic seats for extended periods of time. It starts as small red spots on the inside of the upper thighs and these spread to form an itchy, reddened, scaly patch.

What is the treatment?
Topical antifungal creams can successfully treat the infection. It often takes two or three weeks to control the fungus. Occasional cases may require oral antifungal medicine or tablets as well. If a large kerion that is discharging pus has formed, antibiotics may be prescribed. Toenail infections can take as long as six months to treat.

What can I do to help?
* Avoid sharing hairbrushes, towels or other personal belongings.
* Avoid wearing tight clothing especially if it is synthetic.
* Let the air get to your skin and wear cotton or wool socks.
* Wear shoes that let your feet breathe. If you have athlete’s foot then dust the inside of your shoes and between your toes with special powder obtained from the pharmacist.
* Dry skin thoroughly especially between the toes, and in the groin.
* Prompt treatment will prevent the fungus getting a hold.

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