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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 make it go away.

Check if it's ringworm

The main symptom of ringworm is a red or silver rash. 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 the skin
The rash is usually ring-shaped, unless it's on your face, neck or scalp.
Credit:

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/262831/view

A large ringworm rash on the skin
Sometimes the rash grows, spreads or there's more than one rash.
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/262986/view

Ringworm on the scalp
Ringworm on the face or scalp may also cause patchy hair loss.
Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/262834/view

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

You usually need to use antifungal medicine every day for 2 weeks. It's important to finish the whole course, even if your symptoms go away.

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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • ringworm hasn't improved after using antifungal medicine for 2 weeks
  • you have ringworm on your scalp – you'll often need prescription antifungal tablets and shampoo
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, from chemotherapy, steroids or diabetes
Information:

Coronavirus 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 coronavirus

How ringworm spreads

Ringworm is caused by a type of fungi.

It can be spread 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 it.

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 and 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: 8 September 2017
Next review due: 8 September 2020