Go to AAD Home
Donate For AAD Members Search

Go to AAD Home

Ringworm: 12 tips for getting the best results from treatment

When treating a ringworm infection, it’s important to use an anti-fungal medicine. To get the best results and prevent the infection from spreading to other areas of your body, dermatologists recommend the following:

  1. Treat the area for as long as recommended. Anti-fungal medicine may work quickly. You may see clearing or no longer feel symptoms in a few days.

    If this happens, you should still treat the area for as long as your dermatologist recommends. If you’re treating with a medicine that you bought without a prescription, treat for as long as stated in the directions.

    By treating ringworm for as long as recommended, you help ensure that the ringworm does not re-appear a few weeks after you stop treating it.

  2. After touching the area with ringworm, wash your hands before touching another area of your body. Touching or scratching the area with ringworm and then touching another area can spread ringworm from one part of your body to another. Washing your hands well can help prevent this.

  3. Keep the infected area clean and dry. The fungus that causes ringworm thrives in warm, moist areas, so you want keep the area clean and dry.

    When cleaning the area with ringworm, wash the affected area(s) and dry it (them) with a clean towel. Use another clean towel to dry the other parts of your body. Before using these towels again, wash them in hot, sudsy water.

    To keep the area dry, avoid wearing clothes, socks, and shoes that make you sweat.

    Keep the area clean and dry

    Using a different towel to dry off the area infected by ringworm can improve treatment results.

    Young man drying his face with a towel in the bathroom

  4. Treat all ringworm at the same time. If you have athlete’s foot and ringworm on your hands, it’s important to treat both your feet and hands. If you treat only one area, you’ll still have a ringworm infection. The infection can quickly spread to other areas again.

    Because ringworm is very contagious, you can also spread ringworm to other people.

  5. Change your clothes, including underwear and socks, every day. Wash the clothes before wearing them again. This includes clothes you wear to work out.

  6. Shower after working out. Fungi thrive in moist, warm areas. You want to wash away perspiration and keep the area dry.

  7. Avoid sharing towels and other personal items. You can easily spread ringworm to others by sharing towels, hats, combs, and other personal items. The fungi can survive on objects for a long time.

  8. Wear shower thongs or waterproof shoes in locker rooms, showers that others use, and pool areas. If you have athlete’s foot, this helps prevent spreading it to others. It also gives you some protection if someone else has ringworm.

  9. Disinfect or throw out infected items. The fungi that cause ringworm can survive for a long time.

    To avoid re-infecting yourself with infected items, you should wash clothes, towels, and bedding that you use while you have ringworm. Be sure to wash everything in hot, soapy water.

    If you have athlete’s foot, you’ll want to toss all shoes and other footwear that you wore before you started treatment. If you cannot bear to toss shoes, you can disinfect them using an ultraviolet (UV) shoe sanitizer or ozone cabinet, which you can buy online.

    Disinfecting items is also important because if you continue to use an infected item, treatment may not work.

  10. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, take the animal to your vet. It’s possible to catch ringworm from an animal. Dogs, cats, and other animals can pass ringworm to humans. Just as there are effective treatments for people, there are effective ringworm treatments for pets.

    If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, you’ll want to take some preventive measures for a few weeks. You’ll find these at, Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Ringworm (Centers for Disease Control)

  11. If treatment fails to clear the rash, tell your dermatologist. Virtually every case of ringworm can be successfully treated.

  12. Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist. Ringworm often clears with the first treatment a dermatologist prescribes. Sometimes, ringworm can be stubborn or patients unknowingly do something that prevents the treatment from working. For these reasons, it best to keep follow-up appointments.

After ringworm clears, it’s possible to get it again. Ringworm is very contagious. You can, however, reduce your risk. You’ll discover ways to prevent athlete’s foot, a common type of ringworm, by watching, Athlete’s foot: How to prevent

Getty Images

Sobera JO and Elewski BE. “Fungal diseases.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1138-46.

Centers for Disease Control. Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Ringworm. Last accessed April 19, 2016.