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What Is Ringworm?

Do you or your kids have an itchy, ring-like rash on your body? Ringworm is very common. Find out what it is, how you contract it, and how to get rid of it using over-the-counter treatment.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
April 21, 2016
Episode #212

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Spring has officially arrived. As we rejoice for warmer temperatures, we prepare ourselves for the upcoming fun in the sun summer months. This means we can finally store away the sweaters, boots, and scarves, and unpack our shorts, flip flops, and swimsuits. 

It also tends to be that time of year we pay greater attention to our skin, technically the largest organ in the body. As a primary-care physician, besides dry skin and moles, one of the most common skin ailments I see in clinic is fungal in origin. “Ringworm,” a term you may have heard of, is actually quite common. 

What is ringworm? How do we get it? And how do we get rid of it? 

What Is Ringworm?

The term “ringworm” is a misnomer. No, it is not caused by a “worm” in any way, and is referred to as “tinea corporis”—where “tinea” refers to a type of fungus, and “corporis” simply means “body.” It is indeed a fungus that seeps through and causes a rash on the superficial skin layers. It is contagious, and often contracted by touching another person or object carrying the same fungus. 

It’s common in children, who tend to more frequently forgo the handwashing and cannot help but touch everything in sight, and in sweaty wrestlers who come into as close contact as it gets to the skin of their opponents.

What Does Ringworm Look Like?

Its appearance is rather characteristic. It is a circular or oval, ring-like, red rash with a distinct and raised border and sometimes with scaling over the top. As it grows in size (which it does through time), the center of the rash tends to clear up, leaving a very active and infectious border.

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