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Fungal skin infection (ringworm)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Tinea corporis is the medical name for a fungal infection found on the non-hairy parts of the body. Ringworm is another description many people use because of the distinctive appearance of the ring-shaped rash – it's a bit misleading as no worms are involved.

Typically, a fungal infection appears as a blotch, with a raised red line around the edge and a red, pink, or light brown center. There might be a slight dullness or scale over the rash, there may be one or two marks, or they can grow in number or size and merge. Occasionally little white or yellow pustules can appear. Mild itch is the most common complaint.

Tinea corporis can affect any age and is more common in men than women.

Doctor’s advice

Is ringworm contagious?

Tinea corporis is contagious: from skin-to-skin contact with others, but more importantly, from different sites on your body. You should get any fungal nail infection or athlete's foot treated at the same time, as these are both types of tinea infections.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips:

Ringworm can be easily treated with antifungal creams available over the counter in most cases. There are generally two main types of antifungal products that have different methods of action to kill the fungal infection.

Products such as Lotrimin AF (containing clotrimazole 1%), or Micatin (containing miconazole 2%) are effective in most cases. Apply twice a day on the affected area and also about 1 inch on the surrounding skin to contain the infection. Continue for seven to ten days, and in some cases, up to 2 weeks.

The other option is a product such as Lamisil (containing terbinafine 1%), which works in a different way to the antifungals above and has been shown to clear tinea corporis (ringworm) much more quickly. Lamisil is available in cream, gel, or spray form, and needs to be applied twice a day for seven days to clear ringworm in most cases.

In either case, you should see significant improvement within a week. If your symptoms have not started to clear in that time, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

Remember that ringworm is contagious, so it is important to wash your hands if you have touched an infected area to avoid spread to other areas of the body. In addition, do not share towels, bedding, or clothing with others, to help prevent the spread of ringworm.

When should I see my doctor?

If over-the-counter remedies do not help, your rash is widespread, or you have a recurring rash, you should book an urgent appointment with your doctor. They will discuss your symptoms and examine you. They may decide to send you for further tests, such as taking skin scrapings, or refer you to a specialist.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work with a fungal skin infection.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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