Ringworm - How You Get It and What to Do About It
Not only can you contract ringworm from cats,but from other animals and humans as well. Here's how you get it, and what to do.
How is Ringworm Aquired?
Cats, and dogs,and horses,oh my!
I can’t count the times I used to be amused when my friends would make remarks about getting ringworm from a cat. In fact, I’d sometimes offer my opinion that it was just an “old wives’ tale”. Well, they were right, and I was wrong. We didn’t have a way to “Google it” back then. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Turns out you can get ringworm from a cat. But that’s not all. You can also contract ringworm from other animals. That’s right. Your family dog, horses, goats, pigs and other animals can all be carriers of ringworm. According to the Mayo Clinic, animals can be carriers without ever showing evidence of ringworm on their bodies.
What is Ringworm?
Of course, ringworm is not a worm, nor caused by a worm. Ringworm is a type of fungus called dermatophytes which aggressively invade the outer layer of skin or the scalp. The skin becomes crusted and usually forms a slightly raised, crusty circular pattern.
The affected area will feel itchy, but all precautions must be taken to avoid rubbing and scratching, as this will cause spreading of the ringworm to another area of the body. When on the scalp, there may even be bald patches caused by the ringworm. When the feet are affected, the disorder is usually very red; harboring at first in the moist areas between the toes. Circular rings are not always present. If not properly treated, the crusty, reddened areas will quickly spread to the bottom and top of the feet.
Though ringworm of the skin (tinea corporis) is the most commonly known, the same fungi causes ringworm in other areas. They are:
Tinea capititus, (ringworm of the scalp)
Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot)
Tinea cruris (jock itch)
You, and especially your kids, should be cautious about petting stray animals. Your vet should do a scraping on any stray animal you allow to “homestead” on your property. Further, if know or even suspect that your pet has ringworm, have them treated immediately by the vet. It will not get better on its own. Yes, there is the cost to consider, but it will not heal on its own. Make sure your children know to inform you if they see ringworm on any infected animal.
Additionally, you can get ringworm from humans who are infected with the fungi. Even contact with an infected person’s belongings, or surfaces touched by the infected person’s ringworm can cause you to contract the ringworm.
Though people of all ages get ringworm, it is more common in daycare and school age children because of closer and less cautious interaction with infected classmates. Teachers and daycare providers should not allow close contact between the children and the infected child, and parents of the infected child should be asked take their child home immediately.
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Your doctor can usually verify ringworm simply by looking at the areas that are affected, but may also take a minute scraping for further testing. The doctor will prescribe medications, sometimes both oral and topical. Fortunately, there are creams that aid in soothing the skin. Even if you see rapid improvement, it is very important that you take all of the prescribed medication, both oral and topical.
The affected area will feel itchy, but all precautions must be taken to avoid rubbing and scratching, as this will cause spreading of to another area of the body. There may even be bald patches on the scalp caused by the ringworm. Some say that ringworm on the feet is by far the most painful as you put pressure on the area with every step you take. Circular rings are not always present on the feet. There may be only tender, reddened areas between the toes at first. The moist area between the toes is the perfect breeding ground for the fungi. If not properly and promptly treated, the reddened areas will quickly spread to the bottom and top of the feet with crusty, oozing areas a distinct possibility.
Do s and Don'ts
Don’t use bedding, pillows, towels, brushes, backpacks, books, desks, and other items of an infected person can also increase the chance of acquiring the disorder.
Wearing any type of footwear from an infected person will expose you to ringworm, and probably cause the feet to become infected with tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot. Dermatophytes thrive in warm, moist areas such as between the toes and groin areas.
Wearing any type of headgear previously worn by a person infected with ringworm or using their hairbrush exposes the wearer to tinea capititus, ringworm of the scalp.
At the risk of having you never want to sit in a strange chair again, you should know that sitting where a person infected with jock itch sat (IF their area of infected skin touched the seat), or wearing undergarments that the infected person wore may expose you to Tinea cruris (jock itch). The criteria here is if bare skin touches any area where the infected person’s bare skin touched also.
Now That You Know
Unfortunately, you do not gain immunity after ringworm heals. You will continue to be vulnerable as many times as you are in contact with an infected person or animal. Educate yourself on what to look for in others that may have ringworm, and discreetly keep your distance. Tell family members what to do if they suspect that a friend may have ringworm, and make sure the children inform you if they know of an outbreak, or see a ringworm infected animal.
Place your dirty clothing and used towels in a separate hamper and vigilantly disinfect surfaces you touch. Wear shoes in your home to avoid spreading athlete’s foot until your treatment is over and your condition is completely healed.
It sounds overly cautious, but remember, ringworm can cause pain, intense itching, and even secondary infection. This is something you definitely need to take seriously, and take every care not to spread it others.