Ringworm is a misleading name. This condition (medically known as ‘tinea’) has nothing to do with worms. It is in fact a highly contagious skin infection that causes a ring-like red rash to appear. It can occur anywhere on the skin although common areas include the scalp, feet, groin and nails.


  • Scaly or flaky skin
  • Itchiness
  • Ring-like rash
  • Cracked skin
  • Blisters
  • Pus-filled sores

What causes ringworm?

Ringworm is an infection caused by a fungi called dermatophytes which likes to live on moist areas of the skin - such as skin folds, or around the groin. Dermatophytes, usually live harmlessly on our skin but sometimes they find the dark, damp conditions of the skin so appealing that they multiply out of control.

The fungi are tiny spores that can survive for months on skin or on household objects such as towels. They get spread from human to human, or by stroking an infected pet, or touching a contaminated object.

How is ringworm treated?

Ringworm is easily treated with antifungal preparations - almost all of which are available without the need for a prescription. Treatment creams generally contain: clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazole or terbinafine and are suitable for the body, groin or feet. Treatment should be continued for two weeks after symptoms have disappeared.

Sprays or powders containing the antifungal agent tolnaftate are particularly suitable for treating athlete’s foot, while a lacquer containing the antifungal agent amorolfine can be used if the ringworm has spread to the nails. Although your pharmacist is able to supply amorolfine nail lacquer without a prescription, there are certain conditions that need to be met first, so your pharmacist will need to talk to you in detail prior to purchase.

If the area is highly inflamed, you may want to also use topical steroid hydrocortisone (steroid creams) to reduce redness and swelling.

If topical preparations do not work, your doctor can prescribe more powerful antifungal agents such as fluconazole, griseofulvin or itraconazole available in tablet form.

Alternative remedies & Self help

  • Keep your skin dry and open to the air whenever possible.
  • Do not share towels or face cloths as ringworm is infectious.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes made from synthetic fabrics.