Ringworm is a common contagious skin infection caused by the fungus Trichophyton rubrum. It gets its name because it usually appears as a red, itchy ring-shaped rash. Ringworm spreads from direct contact with humans or infected animals and can live on many surfaces.

Sharing towels, clothing, and bedding or using communal showers or swimming pools is often how this fungus moves from person to person. Once contracted, there are a few different ways to treat ringworm, but prevention is the best measure.

Antifungal Medication

Topical antifungal medication is the standard treatment for ringworm. Many over-the-counter options are available, but more extensive infections may need a prescription-strength ointment or cream, which will require a visit to the doctor.

For severe infections or those that are deep, recurring, chronic, or unresponsive to topical medications, oral medication may be combined with topical creams or ointments for better results. This process is most common in people who are immunocompromised.

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Research shows that garlic may have antifungal properties, and it may be an effective home treatment for ringworm. Make a paste of crushed garlic and apply it directly to the affected area. Cover it with a bandage for up to two hours. Remove the bandage and rinse the area with warm water.

Repeat two or three times a day for two weeks. If you experience swelling, redness, or discomfort, discontinue use.

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Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil reportedly has natural antibiotic and antifungal properties, and research shows it is effective against the fungus that causes ringworm infections in the nails. To treat ringworm, dilute the tea tree oil with at least 50 percent water and apply it directly to the affected skin.

Do this twice a day, and you should notice an improvement in about four weeks.

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Lavender Oil

Another essential oil that may effectively treat ringworm is lavender oil. which has a long history in Ancient Chinese Medicine as an antibiotic and antifungal. Dilute lavender oil with water or mix it with a carrier oil and apply once a day. You should see results within a month.

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Aloe Vera

Most people use aloe vera to soothe sunburns, but it can also treat ringworm and various other skin conditions. Aloe vera gel may help eliminate the fungus, and it can help relieve the itching and burning that can accompany the infection.

More research is needed, but studies show aloe vera is particularly effective at getting rid of ringworm when the area is exposed to varying levels of light during treatment.

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White Vinegar and Salt

Salt has been used as a topical astringent for centuries; white vinegar also has antimicrobial properties. Together, these kitchen staples can help treat ringworm.

Mix the two ingredients to form a paste—typically two parts white vinegar to one part salt. Apply the paste to the affected skin and let it sit for five minutes. Rinse with warm water.

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Lemongrass Oil

Lemongrass oil, or Cymbopogon citratus, also has antifungal properties. One study that looked at the effects of lemongrass and other oils against multiple fungi, including Trichophyton rubrum found that "all essential oils tested and their components exerted concentration-dependent inhibitory effects".

Mix two to four drops with a carrier oil and apply it to the affected area regularly until the infection heals. Lemongrass tea may also help; brew a warm cup, then apply the teabag to the affected area.

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Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and is effective at treating ringworm. One study showed that guinea pigs with ringworm and treated with curcumin had improved symptoms within two to five days and that the lesions were gone after six to seven days.

Mix turmeric with a small amount of water to make a paste and apply it to the affected area. Allow the paste to dry, then wash it off with warm water. Turmeric has a deep yellow-to-orange color and may temporarily stain the skin.

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A Word About Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar may be recommended as a treatment for ringworm, but it can cause problems and should be avoided. Many home remedies recommend leaving apple cider vinegar over the affected areas for extended periods or applying it multiple times per day, but apple cider vinegar can cause chemical burns, which can cause complications that are a lot worse than ringworm.

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To prevent ringworm, wash your hands regularly, especially after playing with pets or other animals that may be infected. If you regularly play team sports or use communal locker rooms, pools, or other athletic equipment, shower immediately after your session, keep your gear clean, and don't share equipment with teammates.

Wear flip-flops in locker rooms and public showers. Never share bedding, towels, or clothes with someone with ringworm, change underwear and socks at least once daily, and keep your nails short and clean.

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