Ringworm infections are not caused by worms but rather by fungi collectively called dermatophytes. These fungi are commonly associated with hair, skin and nail infections. Dermatophytes gravitate to moist parts of the skin, such as folds or creases, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ringworm can also contaminate clothing and towels. Swimming pool environments, such as pool decks and showers, may provide favorable transmission conditions for ringworm infections.
Ringworm exhibits three recognizable symptoms. You’ll notice a circular lesion that’s clear in the center while spreading at the edges. Lesions are accompanied by skin redness and itching. Kids’ Health also notes that scalp ringworm begins as a pimple-like sore that becomes scaly and flaky. The scalp can become swollen and red. Nail-based ringworm results in thick, brittle white or yellow nails. Some ringworm infections exhibit inflamed, swollen masses that emit fluid
You can spread a ringworm infection in two ways. MayoClinic.com notes that the infection can be transmitted from one person’s skin to another. For example, your child can be infected while playing with his friends at the pool. Ringworm can also be spread by contact with contaminated clothing. This can occur when a damp pool towel used by an infected swimmer is then used by her friend.
Treatment of ringworm infections depends on the infection's location and severity, along with your tolerance for specific medications. For body, foot or groin ringworm, your physician may prescribe an oral or topical antifungal medication. Treatment duration depends on the infection’s location. For scalp ringworm, your doctor may recommend an antifungal shampoo. For swollen lesions, you may also receive a course of steroids to reduce swelling, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Ringworm infections can sometimes develop complications. The infection can spread to your nails, feet, groin or other parts of your skin. Bacterial skin infections can result from skin that’s already compromised. Finally, your body can develop reactions or side effects from the antifungal medication, states the National Institutes of Health.
You can help prevent ringworm transmission by following some simple recommendations. If you have an active ringworm infection, stay away from the pool until the infection has completely healed. Scrub showers and tubs with bleach or fungicide. Wash your bedding, clothes and towels thoroughly. Don’t allow anyone else to use your brushes, hats or towels. Finally, cover lesions so others don’t become infected through skin contact, recommends the Boulder, Colorado, county government.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dermatophytes: Ringworm
- Kids' Health: Infections: Tinea--Ringworm
- MayoClinic.com: Common Skin Rashes--Ringworm of the Body
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Dermatology--Tinea Infections: Ringworm
- A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia: Tinea Corporis--Ringworm: Complications