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Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal infection. It's not caused by worms. You can usually buy medicine from a pharmacy to treat it.

Check if it's ringworm

The main symptom of ringworm is a rash. It may look red, silver or darker than surrounding skin, depending on your skin tone.

The rash may be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy.

Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp (tinea capitis) and groin (jock itch).

A ring-shaped ringworm rash on white skin
The rash is usually ring-shaped, but it may look different on your face, neck or scalp.
An oval-shaped patch of scaly, reddish-brown skin on a child’s cheek, caused by ringworm. Shown on medium brown skin.
The colour of the ringworm rash may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.
A large ringworm rash on white skin
Sometimes the rash grows, spreads, or there's more than 1 rash.
Ringworm on the scalp of someone with white skin
Ringworm on the face or scalp may also cause patchy hair loss.
Other common fungal infections
A table of possible causes of symptoms.
Affected area Possible condition
Nails fungal nail infection
Feet athlete's foot

A pharmacist can help with ringworm

Speak to a pharmacist first.

They can look at the rash and recommend the best antifungal medicine. This might be a cream, gel or spray depending on where the rash is.

You may need to use an antifungal medicine every day for up to 4 weeks. It's important to use it for the right amount of time, even if the rash has gone away.

A pharmacist will tell you if they think you should see a GP.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • ringworm has not improved after using antifungal medicine recommended by a pharmacist
  • you have ringworm on your scalp – you'll usually need prescription antifungal tablets and shampoo
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, from chemotherapy, steroids or diabetes
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

How ringworm is passed on

Ringworm is caused by a type of fungi.

It can be passed on through close contact with:

  • an infected person or animal
  • infected objects – such as bedsheets, combs or towels
  • infected soil – although this is less common
Information:

It's fine for your child to go to school or nursery once they have started treatment. Let your child's teachers know they have ringworm.

How to stop ringworm spreading

Do

  • start treatment as soon as possible

  • wash towels and bedsheets regularly

  • keep your skin clean and wash your hands after touching animals or soil

  • regularly check your skin if you have been in contact with an infected person or animal

  • take your pet to the vet if they might have ringworm (for example, patches of missing fur)

Don’t

  • do not share towels, combs or bedsheets with someone who has ringworm

  • do not scratch a ringworm rash – this could spread it to other parts of your body

Page last reviewed: 26 October 2020
Next review due: 26 October 2023