Ringworm is a skin infection caused by fungal growth. Fungus can grow over the outer surface of the skin, as they feed on keratin, a substance found on the surface of skin, hair and nails. It grows particularly over areas that are moist, warm and away from sun exposure. If it occurs over the feet it is popularly known as Athlete’s feet; if it occurs over the groin area it is called Jock’s itch. If it develops over any other part of the body, it is known as ringworm. Ringworm is a moderately contagious condition and accompanied by raised, dry and round patches of reddish area which are often itchy in nature. As the patch grows, the central area clears off, leaving behind a ring shaped area of itchiness; thus given the name ringworm.
How Long Does Ringworm Last?
The signs and symptoms of ringworm vary from one person to another. The time period for which ringworm lasts also depends on each individual’s susceptibility and healing capacity. It also depends on the severity of the condition and the location of the ringworm infection.
In most of the cases, ringworm infection clears by itself within a couple of months without any active treatment. However, the condition may become recurrent and chronic. With active treatment, the skin issue clears between few days and 2 to 4 weeks. It is necessary to ensure that the treatment for ringworm is followed for at least 2 to 4 weeks to ensure complete elimination of the fungus and to prevent relapse. Ringworm can be tricky to treat when it affects the nails and takes longer time to heal.
Management of Ringworm
Treatment and management of ringworm largely depends on the site of infection and the severity of the condition. In case of a mild ringworm infection, over-the-counter drugs are helpful in dealing with the infection. In severe cases, prescription drugs may be needed to assist in healing of ringworm infection. If the fungal infection is restricted to the skin (such as in athlete’s foot and jock itch) topical medications are available in the form of powder, creams or lotions for local applications. Some of the commonly used over-the-counter medications to treat ringworm include:
- Clotrimazole (Mycelex, Lotrimin)
- Miconazole (Desenex, Fungoid, Baza antifungal, Azolen etc.)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Ketoconazole (Xolegel).
It is generally advised to use these medications for 2 to 4 weeks (even if the symptoms of ringworm improve before the suggested time) to ensure that it kills the causative fungus completely. In case of fungal infection in the hair, anti-fungal shampoos are advised. Anti-fungal paints are available for treatment of fungal growths over nails. In case of severe ringworm infections, it is advised to get the condition evaluated by an experienced physician or a dermatologist, who may prescribe topical as well as oral medications for 1 to 2 months. The most common prescription drugs for management of ringworm include Griseofulvin, Iteaconazole and Terbinafine.
What are the Home Remedies to Get Rid of Ringworm
Besides the over-the-counter medications, home remedies are also beneficial in controlling the symptoms associated with ringworm infection. Some of the most commonly used home remedies to get rid of ringworm include:
Medicated Soap: Ringworm is a contagious condition and spreads by contact. It is important to keep the area clean with soap and water to restrict the spread of this condition to other areas. It is also important to dry the area after washing, as fungus grows in the presence of moisture. Soap helps in removing sweat from surface of the skin, which also promotes growth of fungus. Special medicated soaps are available commercially, but even an ordinary soap is helpful as a home remedy to manage ringworm infection.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Ringworm: Apple cider vinegar is known to have anti-fungal properties making it an effective home remedy to get rid of ringworm. It can be applied directly over the affected area with a cotton ball. For best results, it is advised to apply this locally at least 3 times a day, until there is an improvement in the symptoms.
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is also known to have anti-fungal properties. It can be applied locally in a similar way as apple cider vinegar. However, in case of sensitive skin, it is advised to dilute the tea tree oil with water before applying it over skin.
Coconut Oil as a Home Remedy Ringworm: Coconut oil has a soothing effect over skin irritation. Rubbing coconut oil over the fungal infection can help in controlling the itchiness associated with ringworm. It is ideal home remedy for scalp infection considering its ease of use.
Turmeric for Ringworm: Anti-inflammatory properties along with anti-fungal properties, makes turmeric beneficial home remedy in management of ringworm. It is made into a paste by mixing it with water, and applied over the affected site. Once dried, it is washed off with water. Turmeric milk when consumed orally is also beneficial.
Aloe Vera: Similar to coconut oil, Aloe Vera may not treat the condition, but it helps in management of the ringworm symptoms associated with it such as itchiness, inflammation, irritation, redness and other discomfort.
Oregano Oil: Oregano oil is a potent anti-fungal agent. Some believe it is more effective than other medications available commercially making it a useful home remedy to get rid of ringworm. It is generally mixed with carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil and applied over the area topically.
Lemon Grass: Lemon grass oil or even lemon grass tea extract are helpful in soothing fungal infection. It is mixed with carrier oil and applying directly over the infected area.
Liquorice Powder to Treat Ringworm: This local ointment is made by mixing 8 teaspoons of liquorice powder with 1 cup of water and heated till it boils. Once cooled, it is applied over the infected site.
Though home remedies are often beneficial, it is advised to use them as an adjunct to conventional treatment. If the symptoms do not improve or if it worsens, it is advised to consult a medical professional at the earliest.