Ringworm has a bad reputation. Many people attribute the condition to poor hygiene. However, ringworm is a common skin disease that can be picked up by anyone, even the most careful and hygienic of people. Doctors estimate that about 20% of all people will contract ringworm at some stage in their life.
Contrary to popular belief, ringworm is not an actual worm. This contagious fungal infection got its “ringworm” name from the kind of ring-like protrusion it can produce on the skin. Ringworm, jock itch (tinea cruris) and athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) are collectively and scientifically known as “tinea.”
Without going into any further scientific jargon, the particular fungi that cause tinea are called dermatophytes, and they tend to do well in warm, moist areas. They live off keratin, which is a tough waterproof tissue found in most parts of our body, including our hair, nails, and skin.
So, since ringworm and athlete’s foot basically come from the same family, does that mean you can use athlete’s foot cream for ringworm on other parts of your body? We’ll get to that. But first, let’s make sure we understand some other basics.
The spores that cause ringworm conditions like 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 ways:
Generally, children are at highest risk for contracting ringworm, but that does not mean adults do not get it. Instead, adults more commonly carry the fungus but do not exhibit signs or symptoms of the disease. Unlike a child, an adult’s body usually has more time and a stronger immune system to fight the infection and prevent it from fully developing into red, itchy patches.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of ringworm include:
For ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis), you may notice:
For ringworm of the nails (tinea unguium), you may notice your nails become:
There are many myths surrounding ringworm, and even medical professionals disagree on many aspects. While it is a fairly common condition and quite easy to pick up, there are precautions physicians recommend to reduce your chances of infection:
These precautions are not foolproof, but they will reduce the odds of getting ringworm. Regular foot care and bodily inspection will also help. Fortunately, ringworm is easy to treat. Lots of natural, over-the-counter, and other conventional remedies are readily available.
Now back to our original question. If preventative measures fail, can creams for athlete’s foot effectively treat ringworm? Treatment prescribed by medical professionals for most types of ringworm on the body is an anti-fungal medication that can be taken orally or topically (applied directly to the affected area).
So the answer to the question is most likely, yes. As stated on the WebMD website, if the cream is specifically made to treat athlete’s foot and has the correct active ingredients, it will work for ringworm on other parts of the body. In fact, you might prefer topical versus oral medication. In most cases, topical treatment is fast and effective while many oral medications have side effects. Plus, topical treatments can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.
If you notice symptoms of ringworm or suspect you might have it, you can purchase a quality cream with the correct anti-fungal ingredients (we’ll describe what those are in the next section) and apply immediately. Continue use even if the infection appears to have cleared up. If you do not experience relief after a week, consult a physician.
The main chemical ingredient at work in good antifungal treatment is clotrimazole (Lotrimin), but there are a few others. Other effective nonprescription antifungals are miconazole (Micatin), terbinafine (Lamisil), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). These nonprescription antifungals are applied to the skin (topical medicines).
Other natural ingredients like lavender oil and tea tree oil also help, not only with the infection but with the healing process as well, i.e., pain and itching. Some creams also include soothing aloe leaf juice, cetyl alcohol, mineral oil, isopropyl alcohol and purified water. Natural ingredients are always better, so apart from the necessary medical chemicals, try to avoid creams with a strong fragrance and unnecessary oils.
The base used for the cream makes a difference too, as you do not want a jar of cream that is too oily or greasy. Monitor the cream when you apply it. It may sting slightly, but excessive burning or pain can mean it is the wrong cream for you. After the initial sting, the cream should soothe the skin and relieve some of the pain and itching.
Here’s a quick checklist you can use to ensure you’re using the right ringworm treatment:
Many companies that stand behind the quality and effectiveness of their creams offer a 100% money-back guarantee. This is always a good sign. And speaking of money, make sure to compare prices of different creams. The most expensive cream might very well contain similar ingredients as its lower-priced alternatives while working no better or faster. Do your research to ensure you are buying a quality product that will treat the underlying problem as well as relieve its unpleasant symptoms.
Ringworm is not pleasant. However, treatment is quick and easy and relatively inexpensive, so never ignore symptoms hoping they will go away. They will only get worse! If you find yourself with ringworm, act quickly and treat the condition immediately with the guidance of a physician. But remember, prevention is often better than having to struggle with the cure, so do your best to avoid it in the first place!