Is Ringworm Contagious? Get the Answer Here.
Having a skin condition called ringworm is usually enough for some people to ask a lot of rather panicked questions. Is ringworm contagious? What kinds of worms are we talking about?
The truth of the matter is that ringworm is not caused by any sort of worm at all. Actually, the real culprit is a fungus called tinea, and the condition is called ringworm because if you’ve seen pictures of ringworm you’ll notice that the area around the rash seems like a ring.
And as for how contagious ringworm is, you have to be aware that it is highly contagious. In fact, skin doctors known as dermatologists estimate that about 10 to 20 percent of us will at some point develop at least one of these fungal infections.
What Causes Ringworm
The blame for ringworm can be attributed chiefly on some types of fungi. The word “fungi”, by the way, is plural, and the singular is “fungus”. Fungi are like plants, but they can’t turn sunlight into food and fuel (a process called photosynthesis) like most other plants do.
So what a fungus does is to break down living tissue so they can feed themselves, and it so happens that sometimes that living tissue is human tissue.
A fungus that infects human skin, as well as nails and hair, is called a dermatophyte. These dermatophytes are attracted to our skin surface, hair, and nails because these parts of the body contain a protein called keratin. The dermatophytes feed on the keratin, so they target the skin, hair, and nails.
When dermatophytes are looking for food, they can survive on the skin for months. These fungi are tiny, as they’re just microscopic spores. They are so resilient that they can also survive for a long time in other places, such as our clothes, in our combs, other household objects, or even the soil.
So How Do You Get Ringworm?
Basically, you get ringworm when you come into contact with the fungus that causes ringworm. It’s that simple.
- You can get it from other people directly, simply by touching them or shaking their hands.
- You can get ringworm when you touch an animal that’s hosting the tinea fungus. Pet dogs and cats are very common carriers and sources of tinea, since people like to pet and stroke their fur. Other animals can also be infected with tinea, including rabbits, mice, pet birds, horses, pigs, and cattle.
- The infection may also happen through an indirect route, as infected animals and people can deposit some fungi spores on various objects. So you can get ringworm when you use a towel, a blanket, a pillow, clothes, a comb, or anything touched by an infected person.
Are You Likely to Get Ringworm?
It’s possible that you can get into contact with the tinea virus and still don’t get ringworm, because your immune system is able to protect you. But while you may not show the symptoms, you may still be a carrier and infect others whose immune systems are not that strong.
The type of people who are more likely to show ringworm symptoms include:
- The very young. Children’s immune systems are not yet fully developed, so their chances of showing ringworm symptoms (a red itchy rash) are higher. In addition, they tend to play with other children a lot, and a child can get the fungus from other kids while playing.
- The very old. Older people no longer have strong immune systems too, so they face a greater risk.
- People who have had a fungal infection before. The infection can be a recurring problem.
- Animal lovers. If you like petting animals or if you live with someone who’s often in contact with animals, the chances of infection also rises.
- Sports participants. This is especially true with contact sports. Aside from the physical contact, other risk factors include sharing changing rooms and showers, where the fungus can be deposited.
- Those who like to wear tight clothes. Fungi simply love dark places that are humid. Tight clothes impede ventilation, which creates ideal environments for fungi.
- Those who sweat a lot. Moist skin makes for especially nurturing areas for fungi.
- People who live in damp and humid living areas. The problem gets worse when the living quarters are crowded.
- People with compromised immune systems. These include suffering from HIV infection or AIDS, diabetes type 1, arteriosclerosis, vascular conditions, and even just obesity.
Treatment for Humans
For the most part you can just take phytozine to treat the problem. Only if that doesn’t work should you go to a doctor and get something stronger. The problem is that these stronger medicines can cause rather disturbing side effects.
One possible treatment is terbinafine, which is not recommended for those who have liver problems. Side effects may include nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, and even new skin rashes. Another side effect may be problems with the sense of smell, although this is rare.
Griseofulvin is another possibility, although pregnant women must not take them because of the possibility of birth defects. Men who have taken this treatment should also wait for at least 6 months after stopping the treatment before trying to get a woman pregnant.
Other side effects include mild diarrhea, indigestion, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Griseofulvin makes the symptoms of alcohol worse, and it may also affect your ability to operate heavy machinery or drive safely.
What Else Should You Do?
While you’re getting treatment, you should also take care of your skin properly. You should wash your skin regularly so you can clean the infection.
Then afterwards you should dry the wet skin gently but thoroughly. In the more tender areas of the body, you should pat the skin with your towel instead of rubbing the skin with the towel. Every area should be wiped dry, including the skin between your toes.
If you have ringworm, you should change your underwear often.
Is ringworm contagious to other parts of your body? Yes, it is. Once you get ringworm in one part you should also make sure you try not to spread the fungi to other parts of your body.