Ringworm, or tinea, is a fungal infection of the skin. It does not involve an actual worm; it gets its name from the red, circular rash it produces. The infection can be spread easily by direct contact or indirect contact through shared clothing or sports equipment. School board policies vary throughout the country, but students diagnosed with ringworm are usually required to avoid activity that is likely to spread the infection.
Students with ringworm should not have to miss school or day care, the American Academy of Pediatrics says on its Healthy Children website. Students diagnosed with ringworm should, however, receive treatment for the condition and avoid contact that could spread the infection.
Participating in Sports
Most skin conditions do not affect sports participation, but ringworm typically does. Because ringworm can be spread through gym mats, helmets and towels as well as by direct contact, most sports activities, particularly those involving skin-to-skin contact, are off-limits to students diagnosed with ringworm.
The telltale symptom of ringworm is a round rash with a raised, rough, scaly border. As the rash gets larger, the center tends to clear, giving the appearance of a round worm under the skin. Though no such worm is present, the ring continues to grow if left untreated and is usually somewhat itchy. Any rash fitting this description that doesn’t disappear after two weeks may be ringworm.
Animals with ringworm, particularly pet dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits or horses, can transmit the infection. In rare cases, exposure to highly infected soil can also be a source of infection.
The fungal infection that causes ringworm is treated through topical and orally administered medication. If infection occurs on the scalp, special shampoo may be prescribed. Antifungal treatment generally lasts four to six weeks.