Ever notice a circular spot of scaliness or a hairless patch on the skin of your dog or cat? Animals are exposed to ringworm from shared bedding, contaminated grooming supplies or from fungus in soil. If the fungus spores get inside a scratched or scraped area then ringworm can develop. Animals give us ringworm when we pet an infected area on their coats or from contact with bedding they have slept upon.
In people, ringworm appears as a circular red, itchy rash surrounding healthy skin inside or there may be numerous round red patches that are flat or raised. On the scalp, a common place for children to get ringworm, it can also create bald patches. Ringworm can also be spread in people through shared contact of contaminated personal items such as hairbrushes, combs and towels.
Ringworm is not actually caused by a worm but is a fungus called tinea corporis that is a similar to the fungus that occurs in athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). In fact, it is that same type of fungus that also causes jock itch (tinea cruris) and ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). The ringworm fungi or dermaphytes are able to live on the outer surface layer of our skin and can be quite difficult to get rid of.
Ringworm can be diagnosed by a doctor (or vet) by looking at scrapings from the infected area under a microscope or from a culture sent to a lab.
Topical treatments may be started with over-the-counter antifungal creams such as Tinactin or Lamisil for several weeks. If the ringworm doesn’t clear up, a prescription cream may be ordered by the doctor. Oral anti-fungal therapy is used as a last resort due to potential gastric side effects or development of liver problems. In order to effectively combat an outbreak of ringworm in your home, follow the steps below.
1. Take your pet to the Vet for a confirmed diagnosis and use any prescribed cream or pills for the entire treatment time of 4 – 8 weeks.
2. If you also have a rash, go to your own doctor for a treatment plan for humans and to confirm it is not an unrelated bacterial skin infection or psoriasis. Do not use your pet’s medication to treat yourself.
3. Vacuum your entire house and throw away the vacuum bag, scrub down any sleeping areas with disinfectant and wash your pet’s bedding. Ringworm can possibly survive on surfaces for up to 18 months.
Don’t share hairbrushes, towels or even unwashed socks with others. Thoroughly wash/disinfect any items that have already been shared.
Make sure to change out of gym or other clothes with body sweat after exercising and wash them regularly. Fungus loves to grow in warm moist environments.
Practice good hand washing, especially after petting animals, to avoid spreading the infection to yourself and others.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles