What is ringworm?
Firstly, and fortunately, ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes that are responsible for many similar fungal skin infections. Medically known as tinea corporis, ringworm is a fungal infection of the top layer of your skin.1 It normally shows up as a red or silver rash that can be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy.2 The lesion caused by this infection resembles a worm in the shape of a ring – hence the name.1
The rings usually spread outwards as they progress, while the centre may heal and go back to a normal colour. Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp (tinea capitis), groin (jock itch) or foot (athlete’s foot). Ringworm on the face or scalp may lead to patchy hair loss.2
What are ringworm causes?
Ringworm is contagious, and you can catch it through close contact with contaminated objects like bedsheets, combs or towels, an infected person, animal or – in rare cases – through infected soil.3 Ringworm can also be spread from, and to, different parts of your body. The infection is commonly spread among children, and it also occurs in people who own cats and dogs. Animals can catch ringworm and pass it to humans through touch.4
Who can get ringworm?
The fungi responsible for ringworm can easily enter the top layer of your skin if it becomes soft and wet from prolonged water exposure, or if you have minor injuries or abrasions. You are also more at risk if you use public showers or swimming pools, as fungi thrives in moist and warm environments. You can also catch ringworm if you share hairbrushes or clothes with an infected person.5