Treating ringworm 

Ringworm is easily treated using antifungal creams, tablets and shampoo.

The following self-help tips can also help get rid of ringworm and stop it from spreading:

  • wash areas of skin affected by ringworm daily and dry thoroughly, paying particular attention to skin folds and the areas between your toes
  • in the case of a groin or foot infection, change your underwear or socks daily as fungi can persist in flakes of skin
  • in the case of scalp infection, do not share combs, hairbrushes or hats
  • wash clothes, towels and bed linen frequently
  • wear loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton or other natural materials

Read more about preventing ringworm

Scalp ringworm

Scalp ringworm is usually treated using antifungal tablets, often in combination with an antifungal shampoo.

There are two main types of antifungal tablet:

  • terbinafine
  • griseofulvin

The antifungal medicine your GP prescribes will depend on the type of fungi causing the infection.

Terbinafine tablets

Most people with scalp ringworm are prescribed terbinafine. It's an effective treatment for most cases of ringworm. You usually need to take the tablets once a day for four weeks.

Side effects of terbinafine can include:

These side effects are usually mild and short-lived. Some people have also reported that terbinafine temporarily affected their sense of taste.

Terbinafine is not suitable for people with a history of liver disease or lupus (where the immune system attacks healthy tissue).

Read more about terbinafine tablets.


Griseofulvin is a type of antifungal medicine that works by preventing fungi from growing and multiplying. It is available in the form of a spray and is usually taken daily for between 8 and 10 weeks.

Side effects of griseofulvin can include:

However, these side effects should improve as your body gets used to the medicine.

Griseofulvin can cause birth defects so shouldn't be taken during pregnancy or if you intend to become pregnant soon after stopping treatment. Men shouldn't father a child within six months of stopping treatment.

Griseofulvin is also not suitable for women who are breastfeeding and those with severe liver disease or lupus.

Griseofulvin can interfere with both the combined contraceptive pill and the progestogen-only pill, so women need to use an alternative barrier form of contraception, such as a condom, while taking it.

Griseofulvin may also affect your ability to drive and can enhance the effects of alcohol.

Read more about griseofulvin.

Antifungal shampoo

Antifungal shampoo cannot cure scalp ringworm, but it can help prevent infection spreading and may speed up recovery.

Antifungal shampoos such as selenium sulphide and ketoconazole shampoo are available from your pharmacist. Ideally, antifungal shampoo should be used twice a week during the first two weeks of treatment.

There is no evidence that shaving a child's head will reduce the risk of a ringworm infection or speed up recovery.

Body ringworm

Most cases of body ringworm (including groin infections) can be treated using an over-the-counter antifungal cream, gel or spray. There are lots of different types, so ask your pharmacist to help choose the right one for you.

You usually apply antifungal creams, gels and sprays daily to the affected areas of skin for two weeks. The cream, gel or spray should be applied over the rash and to one inch of skin beyond the edge of the rash. Read the manufacturer's instructions first.

You may be advised to use the treatment for a further two weeks to reduce the risk of re-infection. See your GP if your symptoms have not improved after two weeks of treatment as you may need antifungal tablets.

Both terbinafine and griseofulvin tablets can be used to treat body ringworm infections, as well as another antifungal medicine called itraconazole.


Itraconazole is usually prescribed in the form of capsules for 7 or 15 days. It is not recommended for use in children, elderly people or those with severe liver disease.

Side effects of itraconazole can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • indigestion
  • diarrhoea
  • headache

Read more about itraconazole.

Read about how to stop the infection coming back.

Fungal nail infections

Fungal nail infections can be treated with antifungal nail paint or antifungal tablets. Antifungal tablets tend to work better than nail paints, although they can cause side effects such as headache, nausea and diarrhoea.

Read more about treating fungal nail infections.

Treat groin and feet together

Groin infections often occur at the same time as athlete's foot because it's easy to transfer the ringworm fungus from your feet to your groin, or vice versa, when showering or dressing.

It's vital you treat both infections at the same time, otherwise you could easily be re-infected with either condition.

Page last reviewed: 14/03/2013

Next review due: 14/03/2015