Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Teens
Ringworm is a type of fungal skin infection. When fungi infect the skin, they cause mild but annoying rashes. Fungal skin infections are also known as tinea infections.
When fungus grows in the area of the groin, upper thighs, and buttocks, it is called jock itch. When it grows on the feet, it is called athlete’s foot.
But when fungus grows anywhere else on the body, it’s known as ringworm. Its medical name is tinea capitis when it’s on the scalp, and tinea corporis when it’s on the rest of the body. On the nails it is known as onychomycosis.
Ringworm on the skin starts as a red, scaly patch or bump. Over time, it may look like one or more rings with raised, bumpy, scaly borders (the center is often clear). This ring pattern gave ringworm its name, but not every infected person has it. The skin may flake, peel, or crack, and it can itch, sting, burn, or feel uncomfortable.
Ringworm on the scalp may start as a small sore that looks like a pimple before becoming patchy, flaky, or scaly. These flakes may look like dandruff. It can make some hair fall out or break into stubble, leaving a bald spot. It also can make the scalp swollen, tender, and red.
Sometimes, it causes a pus-filled mass known as a kerion. When the scalp is infected, it can cause swollen lymph nodes at the back of the head or neck.
Ringworm on the nails may affect one or more nails on the hands or feet. The nails may become thick, white or yellowish, and brittle.
Ringworm is caused by fungi that normally live on the skin, hair, and nails called dermatophytes (pronounced: der-MAH-tuh-fites). When the environment they live in gets warm and moist, they grow out of control and start to cause symptoms.
Yes. Ringworm can spread:
Besides spreading from person to person, ringworm can come from pets or other animals (usually cats, dogs, or rodents). It thrives in warm, moist environments such as public showers, locker rooms, or pool areas. It can spread easily when people are in close physical contact. That’s why it’s common in people who play contact sports such as wrestling. It can also be passed on objects like combs, brushes, hats, towels, or clothing.
Minor skin injuries (such as scratches), too much exposure to heat and humidity, and some health conditions (such as diabetes, obesity, or immune system problems) can make a person more likely to get ringworm.
A doctor can often diagnose ringworm just by looking at it and asking questions about the symptoms and your lifestyle. Sometimes the doctor will scrape off a small sample of the flaky infected skin to look at under a microscope or to test in a laboratory.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, sprays, or powders may solve a mild infection. More serious infections may need prescription medicine, either topical (put on skin) or in pill/syrup form.
Ringworm on the nails or scalp usually is treated with medicine taken by mouth for 1 to 3 months. An antifungal shampoo prescribed by the doctor can help prevent the spread to other people.
Use the medicine as long as is recommended, even if the rash seems to be getting better. If not, the infection can come back and spread to other parts of the body.
To help heal the skin, it’s important to keep the affected area clean and dry. You should:
Most mild cases of ringworm usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks. But treatment might be needed for up to 3 months if the infection is more serious, or affects the nails or the scalp.
Ringworm can often be prevented. To avoid it:
Jock itch is a pretty common fungal infection of the groin and upper thighs. It is generally easy to treat – and avoid – by following a few simple steps.
Although the name athlete’s foot sounds funny, if you have this skin infection, you’re probably not laughing. The good news is that it is generally easy to treat.
Pityriasis versicolor is a rash caused by a fungus. It can appear over the chest, shoulders, and back, and is a common cause of skin rashes in teens.
Pityriasis rosea is a pink or gray skin rash that’s common in teens and young adults. It may itch, but it’s harmless. Find out what to do about it in this article for teens.
Puberty causes all kinds of changes in your body – and some may not make you feel very desirable. Read this article for information on dealing with greasy hair, perspiration, and body hair.
Sometimes it may seem like your skin is impossible to manage, especially when you find a huge zit on your nose or a cold sore at the corner of your mouth. Here are ways to prevent and treat common skin problems.
Cellulitis is a skin infection that involves areas of tissue just below the skin’s surface. It can affect any part of the body, but it’s most common on exposed areas, such as the face, arms, or lower legs.
If you’re worried about dandruff, you’re not alone. Dandruff can start in puberty, and lots of teens and adults live with it. Learn how to control it.
Impetigo is a skin infection caused by fairly common bacteria. Read this article to learn how to recognize it and what to do about it.
Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don’t wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.