Perhaps the greatest of all ringworm myths is that it is an infection caused by a worm. The fact is: ringworm is not caused by a worm; rather it is a fungal skin infection caused by a family of fungi called dermatophytes. These cause a red, crusty or raised rash on the skin which is also quite itchy and painful. Ringworm (also called as dermatophytosis) is a name given to that class of skin infections that typically affect feet, body and scalp.
Let us study and debunk some of the common ringworm myths and understand their corresponding facts. This knowledge can come in handy in preventing further complications arising from the disease.
Ringworm myths and facts you need to know about
Myths surrounding ringworm infections in humans
- Skin infections like ringworm resolve on their own
The truth is: ringworm is a highly contagious skin disease. Failure to nip it in its bud could spread the disease to healthy body parts as well as to friends/family members. Hence, taking the right medication to counter it in its early stages is vitally important to prevent its spread. Secondly, important ringworm facts state that there may be permanent issues resulting from these infections. For example, scalp ringworm can lead to hair loss which is often difficult to regain. Likewise, ringworm of the nails could cause entire nail plates to fall off.
- Ringworm infections are not all that serious
Ringworm is not deadly or fatal. But, as stated before, ringworm facts include many long term complications. Hence it is important not to ignore this skin disease, especially in athletes and wrestlers. It is a fact that many an athlete (and other contact sports person) has lost play time had recurring rashes and/or fungal skin infection outbreaks that have spread throughout the sports facility. Harder-to-treat and painful bacterial skin infections have also resulted due to such ignorance.
- It is okay to share items when suffering from ringworm infection – after all; I am already on treatment and my infection is clearing
The tiny spores of the fungi that cause ringworm, (mainly Microsporum, Trichophyton and Epidermophyton species of dermatophytes) can remain on surfaces for days. Thus, if you share your combs, razors, towels and other personal items, you can take it for a fact that the infection will spread. And this is true despite the fact that you are taking/applying antifungal medication. The treatment should be continued daily for at least 4-6 weeks to ensure complete healing. Thereafter; you must continue using precautions like washing your hands frequently and not sharing water cups, bottles and so on. Athletes must also shower immediately after every sports practice and report to their coaches regarding the skin infections in the first place.
- My Athlete’s Foot is hardly bothersome. Why treat it at all?
This is perhaps the greatest of all ringworm myths. Athlete’s Foot, in many cases hardly bothers the patient. However, failure to treat it quickly can end up spreading the infection to one’s toe nails which can quickly turn brittle or yellow. The ringworm facts state that entire nails have been dislodged permanently. Occasionally, if the space between toes gets worse, bacterial infections can also occur- leading to further complications.
- Over-the-counter creams should do the trick for ringworm
Most mild cases of ringworm can be resolved through the use of over the counter antifungal medicines. These should, however, be used as prescribed and for a period of at least 4 to 6 weeks. The cream should also be really rubbed in well for it to be effective. Look for sprays, creams and powders containing Miconazole, Clotrimazole and terbinafine which are available without prescription. If you do not see improvement after using for period of 2 weeks, make an appointment with the doctor.
- Jock’s Itch only affects men
While part of this is true; ringworm facts show that a small group of women also suffers from tinea infections in the groin region. Dermatophytes love heat, moisture and sweat all of which are available in plenty in the groin area aggravated further by tight underwear or sport clothing. Jock’s Itch mainly occurs in warmer climates and it can multiple very rapidly spreading to other healthy areas of the skin.
- You can treat ringworm infections with hydrocortisone alone
Topical hydrocortisone can seem like it is working in the beginning. Thus, you might see the rash starting to disappear. But it is one of the most important ringworm myths that it can be treated using hydrocortisone alone. Hydrocortisone actually drives the fungus deeper into the skin making it more difficult for treating using topical antifungal alone.
Myths surrounding ringworm infections in animals
- My cat is asymptomatic. She surely won’t be transmitting dermatophytic infection!
A cat or dog having had ringworm can continue to spread the infection despite being asymptomatic. In dogs, the infections are not easily recognized as most of the times the only symptoms are hair loss, scaly patches of broken hair and infected skin boils or furunculosis.
- Ringworm only affects older animals
Ringworm infections can also be seen in younger animals and the ringworm facts state that kittens are much more susceptible to them than adult cats. Likewise, ringworm infection in dogs, guinea pigs and rats also often occurs in younger animals than in the older ones.
- Long haired animals spread the infection to humans, more than short haired ones
This is actually one of the little known ringworm facts. Some evidence has actually proven that clipping hair in domesticated animals having general tendency towards frequent dermatophytic infections may aid in preventing their spread to humans.
These are some of the ringworm myths and facts surrounding fungal skin infections in humans and pets.