Ringworms, jock itch and athlete’s foot are all fungal skin infections that are collectively known as “tinea.” They are all caused by fungi that live on the skin, nails, hair and tend to do well in warm, moist areas. These fungi are called dermatophytes.
Ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot tend to infect active people who share locker rooms, showers, towels and heap their sweaty clothes together. Since these three infections basically come from the same family, it is safe to assume that they can be treated in the same way. So, can you use athlete’s foot cream for ringworm?
What are they and can you use athletes foot cream for ringworm?
In contrast to their name, ringworm isn’t actually worms of any kind. As explained above, it is a form of fungal infection that falls into the tinea family (ringworm is also known as Tinea corporis). This infection got its “ringworm” name from the kind of ring-like protrusion it can produce on the skin.
The infected part tends to have a red ring that has a clear center. Ringworm tends to form on most parts of the body including the scalp, feet (often referred to as athlete’s foot) and the groin (also referred to as jock itch).
Signs and symptoms of ringworms
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of ringworm include:
- An itchy red patch that starts off as a small bump
- That small bump soon becomes circular and begins to have raised, bumpy borders
- The bumpy borders surround a scaly center
Since ringworm often appears on the scalp as well, you may begin to notice:
- Pimple-like sores that start off as a round-reddish bump
- That bump soon becomes flaky, crusty or scaly and can be easily mistaken for dandruff
- It then becomes tender, red in color and may cause a bald, circular patch of broken hair
In some cases, when you have ringworm on your scalp, it might cause swollen lymph glands to appear at the back of your head. There is also ringworm that affects the nail which might cause the nails to appear yellowish or whitish as well as thick and brittle.
What causes ringworm and other forms of tinea fungal infections?
Without going into scientific jargon, the type of fungi that cause ringworms, jock itch and athlete’s foot are called dermatophytes. These fungi live off keratin. Keratin is a tough tissue found in most parts of our bodies. It is waterproof and can be found on our hair, nails and skin. This would explain why jock itch, athlete’s foot and ringworms often occur in these areas of the body.
How does ringworm spread?
The spores that cause ringworms, jock itch and athlete’s foot are so tough that they can survive for months on household objects such as towels and combs, your skin and even in the soil.
When you introduce heat and moisture, these spores begin to thrive and grow, which is why contracting the condition often occurs in gym locker rooms, swimming pool changing rooms and showers. Typically, these spores spread in four main ways:
- Through human to human contact
- Animal to human contact (you may stroke an infected dog and contract the spores)
- By touching infected objects such as combs, towels, socks and wet clothes
- Touching or playing in infected soil. This is the less common type of contraction. If you spend a considerable amount of time exposed to infected soil, you could contract the spores
Ringworm tends to be more pronounced in children. That, however, does not mean that adults do not get it. What it means is that adults are more commonly carriers who do not exhibit signs or symptoms of having the disease because an adult’s body has had enough time to fight the infection and, as such, keeps it from fully developing into red, itchy patches.
Can you use athletes foot cream for ringworm?
Given the fact that ringworm and athlete’s foot come from the same family of fungi, it is reasonable to assume that you can use athlete’s foot cream to cure ringworms as well. In some cases, this might work. Although, when it comes to ringworm, you are advised to seek medical advice.
Depending on where the ringworm occurs, your doctor might prescribe a cream (typically within the same family of creams that cure athlete’s foot) or oral medication, should the infection be on your scalp. With these types of infections, prevention is often better than having to struggle with the cure.