Ringworm, also known as tinea corporis, is a type of fungal skin infection. It’s common and highly contagious, but not serious. It can often be treated with an over-the-counter topical fungicidal medication.

Ringworm of the body is a skin infection caused by a fungus.

The medical term for ringworm is tinea corporis. “Tinea” means fungus, the cause of the rash, and “corporis” means the body.

It’s a superficial fungal skin infection caused by dermatophytes, which are a type of fungus. It can occur on the:

  • torso
  • arms
  • legs
  • neck

The condition is common and highly contagious, but it’s not serious.

Symptoms of ringworm on your body usually start about 4 to 14 days after contact with the fungus.

Ringworm can affect any area of your skin, and it may also be found on fingernails and toenails.

Symptoms usually include:

  • a ring-shaped rash
  • red skin that is scaly or cracked
  • hair loss
  • itchy skin

Symptoms may also vary based on where ringworm is located on your body:

  • Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis) may produce a bald spot that is scaly, red, and itchy. Multiple bald spots can appear if the infection spreads across the scalp. This may be mistaken for severe dandruff.
  • Feet ringworm (tinea pedis) may cause skin between your toes to peel, itch, or turn red and swollen. It can also cause a pink or scaly rash stretching across your feet. In some severe cases, tinea pedis may cause blisters on your feet.
  • Groin ringworm (tinea cruris) can cause red spots that are sclay and itchy in the skin folds on your inner thigh.
  • Beard ringworm (tinea barbae) can cause spots that are red, scaly, and itchy. This may occur on your chin, cheeks, and upper parts of your neck. The spots can be filled with pus, and the affected hair may fall out. The spots may also crust over.

Ringworm is caused by fungi. The types of fungi that cause ringworm tend to thrive in warm and humid areas like locker rooms and indoor pools. It can also be found in soil, gyms, and animals, or on objects like hats, towels, and combs.

It’s still possible to get ringworm even in cool weather, due to how contagious it is.

Factors that may increase your risk include:

  • living in damp, hot, or humid areas
  • excessive sweating
  • participating in contact sports
  • wearing tight clothing
  • having a weak immune system
  • sharing clothing, bedding, or towels with others
  • diabetes

A ringworm infection can spread in many direct and indirect ways, including:

  • Person to person. This happens when you have direct contact with the skin of a person who has ringworm.
  • Animal to person. This occurs through direct contact with an animal that has ringworm. Both dogs and cats can spread the infection to people. Ferrets, horses, rabbits, goats, and pigs can also spread ringworm to people.
  • Inanimate item to person. It’s possible to get ringworm through indirect contact with objects, including the hair of a person with ringworm, bedding, clothing, shower stalls, and floors.
  • Soil to person. Rarely, a ringworm infection can spread through contact with affected soil for an extended amount of time.

If your doctor suspects that you may have ringworm, they’ll examine your skin and may do some tests. Usually, a skin examination will result in a diagnosis.

Your doctor may also observe skin scrapings from the affected area under a microscope to look for fungus. They may send a sample to a laboratory for confirmation. The laboratory may perform a culture test to see if the fungus grows.

Over-the-counter (OTC) topical fungicidal medications are usually enough to treat a localized infection. The medication may be in the form of a powder, ointment, or cream. It’s applied directly to the affected areas of the skin.

These medications include OTC products like:

  • clotrimazole 1 percent (Lotrimin AF)
  • miconazole 2 percent (Micatin)
  • terbinafine 1 percent (Lamisil)

Your pharmacist can help you choose the right medication for you.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe oral medications. These include:

  • terbinafine
  • itraconazole
  • fluconazole

The infection is not serious and will rarely, if ever, spread below the surface of your skin.

However, people with a weakened immune system, such as people with HIV, on chemotherapy, or doing other immunosuppressant treatment, may have trouble getting rid of the infection.

As with other types of skin infections and conditions, itchy, irritated, or broken skin can lead to secondary bacterial infections that may need treatment with antibiotics.

You can prevent ringworm of the body by limiting contact with someone who has the infection. This includes both indirect and direct contact with that person.

Precautions you can follow include:

  • not sharing towels, hats, hairbrushes, or clothing with someone who has ringworm
  • taking your pet to a vet if you suspect a ringworm infection
  • maintaining personal hygiene around other people if you have ringworm of the body, and not scratching the affected areas of your skin
  • drying your skin well after a shower, especially between your toes and where skin touches skin, such as in your groin and armpits

Ringworm is a skin infection that is caused by fungus. It can appear on any area of your skin and even your toenails and fingernails.

It typically appears as a ring-shaped rash that may cause red skin that is scaly or itchy. It may also cause hair loss in the affected area.

Ringworm can be spread from person to person, from animal to person, and through touching objects that were previously touched by someone with the infection.

You can prevent ringworm by limiting contact with a person who has the infection and not sharing towels, hats, or other items with them. You can also prevent it by properly drying off after a shower.

You can use OTC topical fungicidal medications to treat ringworm. If you suspect you may have ringworm, make an appointment with your doctor.