Many people do not realize that ringworm is contagious. This misconception is probably due in part to the name of the disease. Ringworm appears as a circular rash on the skin, which sometimes leaves a red ring that may look like a worm. Ringworm is not actually a worm, it is a fungal infection that can affect all different parts of the body, and may be spread from person to person or even through animals.
Many people who believe ringworm is the result of a worm and not a fungus do not know what to look for and avoid, and others may only look for the characteristic red ring, unaware that ringworm can appear in different ways. Bald, flaky patches on the scalp, or on the body of an animal, are frequently indicative of a ringworm infection. Sometimes the skin can become scaly, itchy, and discolored. The fingernails and toenails can also be affected by ringworm. Other symptoms may also occur for some individuals.
Ringworm is spread through contact with an infected person or animal, either from direct skin to skin contact or from contact with objects that an infected person has touched, such as clothing or gym mats, even for a long time after the object has been infected. Educating people about the fact that ringworm is contagious may help prevent outbreaks. Non-infected people should avoid contact with infected people and reduce the risk of transmission by not sharing or borrowing personal items such as hairbrushes or clothing items. Keeping public areas such as gyms, schools, and bathrooms clean and regularly disinfected can go a long way toward preventing transmission of the fungus.
Due to the fact that ringworm is contagious, individuals with the infection should take care to avoid spreading it to others. Antifungal creams and other kinds of medications can be bought over the counter in most places, and are usually sufficient to treat the ringworm infection. Bad infections, or infections that do not get better with treatment, should be evaluated and treated by a doctor.
After a ringworm infection, one should make sure to clean and thoroughly disinfect the house. Even if there are no more signs of ringworm on the body, individuals can become infected again from contact with bed sheets, bathroom floors, clothes, or other areas with ringworm spores on it. Once the incubation period has started, the ringworm is contagious again and may be spread to other family members or pets until it is treated and eliminated completely.