Ringworm used to be a children’s infection limited to the spring and summer but now now children get it year round. Known in the medical literature as tinea capitis or tinea tonsurans, ringworm attacks the skin around the eyebrows and eyelashes and the skin of the scalp. It produces itchy, unsightly lesions and causes loss of hair.
Fortunately, simple measures can keep this fungus in check. Here are five things you need to know to get and stay ringworm-free.
1. Ringworm is not actually caused by a worm.
For centuries, doctors believed that the characteristic red ring on the skin had to be the work of insect larvae. Now medical science knows that ringworm is really a fungal infection.
The fungus attaches itself to the skin and follows hair follicles downward to feed on sebum. The faster the hair grows, the faster the fungus is able to spread. Ringworm can also infect the nails.
To the naked eye, this disease appears to start as a pimple. It then generates a round, red rash. The skin becomes scaly, and after 2-3 weeks, hair can become brittle. The fungal growth often leaves a bald spot that can take months to fill back in.
2. Certain age groups are more susceptible to this condition.
Children are more vulnerable to ringworm than adults. That is because the fatty acids in children’s skin oils are just like omega-3 fatty acids in a human diet. The oils in the skin accelerate the parasite’s growth.
About 10 percent of cases in kids under the age of 10 are acquired by petting infected dogs or cats. Ringworm picked up from pets tends to form unusually small rings. Ringworm acquired from another child, who may have no symptoms of his or her own, tends to form bigger rings.
Before puberty, five times as many boys are affected by ringworm as girls. After puberty, five times as many girls are affected by ringworm as boys. The reason seems to be changes in skin oils that are caused by hormones. Ringworm also affects the elderly, especially in nursing homes.
3. Ringworm can be slowed down by simple daily hygiene.
Exfoliating dead skin deprives the fungus of its food source. Even if you use no special skin care products at all, just a gentle scrub will help your body gain the upper hand on the disease.
Shampooing with selenium sulfide shampoos does not heal the skin, but it stops the fungus from spreading. Raw vinegar treatments to the scalp are also helpful, but the thing to remember is that the vinegar goes on the skin, not in the stomach. One part of vinegar should be diluted with three parts of warm (not hot) water so the skin does not smell like pickles.
Natural remedy for ringworm
Tea tree oil actually works better than antifungal medications provided it is used before the hair begins to fall out. The results of clinical trials published in medical journals report that tea tree oil is better than tolnaftate for keeping itching, inflammation, redness, and scaling in check. Almost every over-the-counter cream for ringworm infections contains tolnaftate as its active ingredient.
There is no reason not to use both tea tree oil creams and antifungals. Be sure to use tea tree oil externally, not internally.
Is ringworm contagious?
Just because one child in a household gets ringworm, other children in the home do not have to get it, too. Children should not share beds or bed lines, towels, or combs, and it is a good idea to wash your hands after every time you help your child wash or change clothes. And beware, not every child who carries ringworm will have the characteristic rings or loss of hair. Ringworm can continue to be infectious several weeks after it appears to have been cured.
Ringworm is annoying, but it is never fatal. Just be sure to keep the infection in check by washing, washing, and washing some more, making sure children and adults do not get re-infected once the skin begins to heal.