Is Ringworm Contagious? Everything To Know About This Rash

Everything You Need To Know About Ringworm, Including How To Treat It

July 9, 2021 Updated October 13, 2021

Father with small sick unhappy son indoors at home, checking his hurt back.
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Before we even dive into this, please rest assured that there are no actual worms involved in ringworm — the name is simply because of the shape of the rash. Now that that’s taken care of, we can dive into everything you want to know about this annoying rash and the big question: Is ringworm contagious? Ringworm is a fungal infection on your skin (no worms!) that presents as a circular rash. It usually looks like a red circle that’s open in the middle. So, it quite literally looks like a worm laid down on your skin in the shape of a ring.

Kids commonly pick up these rashes from places like a locker room or in team sports, thanks to all the close contact with other people. Though these rashes are itchy and irritating, they’re very treatable when taken care of properly. With that said, here’s everything you need to know about how they happen, how to treat them, and how to keep from spreading them.

What causes ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by parasites on your skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s commonly transmitted from person to person or from animal to person. There’s a chance you can pick it up from surfaces where an infected person or animal has touched, but it’s less common.

This rash is extremely similar to athlete’s foot and jock itch, but when it’s in other body areas and has the ring appearance, it becomes ringworm. The fungus loves warm, moist areas, which is why you’ll often find the rashes in areas of your body like that. The fungus feeds off your skin and continues to spread if left untreated.

How do you treat ringworm?

Fortunately, ringworm is incredibly treatable. An over-the-counter antifungal cream should do the trick. Follow the instructions on the packaging to see the ringworm clear up. If you have a more severe case that the OTC treatment won’t help, then it’s time to see your doctor. Though ringworm typically isn’t dangerous, you could be at higher risk of complications if you have a weaker immune system.

Once treated, be very aware of continuing to keep your distance from others until you’re fully cleared up. You can still transmit the fungal spores as long as they’re present on your skin, so keep your distance until the rash is long gone. The antifungal cream will significantly decrease the chance of spreading the fungus but won’t put a stop to it until all the spores are gone.

Is ringworm contagious?

Ringworm is highly contagious. In fact, how you get it in the first place is by picking it up from someone else (in most cases). Skin-to-skin contact is the most common way of spreading it, but you can also pick up the fungus from animals with ringworms or from surfaces. This is why athlete’s foot is so prevalent in gyms — the fungus thrives in the warm, wet showers. If you’re barefoot, you can pick it up on your feet, and then it spreads. You can even spread it by sharing soiled towels or clothes.

How do you stop ringworm from spreading?

The best way to stop ringworm from spreading is to treat it immediately. If you have a rash, start an antifungal cream ASAP and avoid contact with other people. Thoroughly wash everything you’re touching and make sure not to share clothes, belongings, towels, etc. If you’ve already come in contact with friends or family, make them aware of your symptoms so that they can properly watch out for ringworm on their own bodies. It’s definitely an unpleasant rash to deal with, but at least it’s not dangerous and can be gotten rid of pretty quickly.

What are some tips for how to prevent ringworm? 

Yes, ringworm is an avoidable fungal infection. How? It’s important to follow these tips to remain rash-free. 

  • Try to keep your skin clean and dry. 
  • Avoid walking barefoot in a moist public area like locker rooms. 
  • Keep your fingernail short and clean. 
  • Change your undergarments daily and avoid wearing underwear or socks that are too tight. 
  • Do not share personal items with others like towels, combs, or even hats. The fungi that cause ringworm can live on surfaces for a long time. So, always throw infected items away or disinfect them. 
  • Shampoo your hair frequently to keep your face clean. 
  • Remind your children never to touch any bald or reddened spots on pets. If they do, wash their hands immediately. 

Can ringworm kill you?

Ringworms may sound severe, but thankfully they’re not fatal. However, untreated, it can turn into a fever or a more severe infection called Majocchi granuloma. It can also lead to severe irritation, which can become extremely painful. The bacteria may continue to grow and lead to blisters and painful cracks in the skin. Still, although contagious, it won’t kill you.