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Ringworm (tinea) information sheet
Tinea capitis (head), tinea corporis (body), tinea pedis (feet), tinea unguium (nails)

Page content: What is ringworm? | How do you get ringworm? | How long is the incubation period? | How do you recognise ringworm? | How do you control ringworm? | Further information

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect any part of the body.

How do you get ringworm?

Ringworm is spread by direct and indirect contact with humans, animals, and soil.
Humans get infections through skin and scalp lesions of infected persons, contaminated clothing, bath mats, towels, floors and showers.

Animals get infections through cats, dogs, mice, and guinea pigs. Cattle and horses may be infected.

How long is the incubation period?

The incubation period lasts from one to three weeks. It varies with the site of infection.

How do you recognise ringworm?

Ringworm of the skin - This appears as a flat, spreading, circular lesion with a reddish outer edge. It is usually dry and scaly or moist and crusted, but it may contain fluid or pus. Single or multiple rings may appear. The centre of the patch may appear to be healing.

Ringworm of the scalp and beard - This condition begins as a small pimple. It spreads outward leaving fine, scaly patches of temporary baldness. Infected hairs become brittle and break off easily.

Ringworm of the foot (commonly known as tinea or athlete?s foot) - The characteristics of this common condition are itchy scaling or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes, or blisters containing a thin watery fluid.

Ringworm of the nail - This condition tends to be a long term fungal disease and is difficult to treat. It usually affects one or more nails of the hands or feet. The nail gradually thickens and becomes discoloured and brittle. Cheesy-looking material forms beneath the nail, or the nail becomes chalky and disintegrates.

How do you control ringworm?

Seek medical advice to confirm diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment. Exclude infected persons from communal swimming and bathing facilities until appropriate treatment has commenced.

Maintain hygiene by regular, thorough bathing with soap and water and special attention to drying moist areas.

  • Do not share clothing or personal linen.
  • Frequently launder clothing and linen in hot water.
  • Wash pets with anti-fungal solution.
  • Dry carefully between toes.

Further information