You could be in trouble if you love sharing clothes, towels (especially in salons), combs, hats, shoes, brushes or swimming in public pools. This is because you are at an increased risk of getting infected with skin or scalp ringworm. Sometimes it is hard to notice that one is infected with ringworm, especially if the infection is in a hidden part of the body.
People who rarely shower or wash their clothes, as well as those who share rooms with pets like dogs and cats are also not safe from ringworm, skin experts say.
Salon equipment is another potential source of ringworm because it is shared by many people.
“Ringworm is medically known as tinea. It is a fungal infection of the skin and may affect the skin of the scalp, feet, groin, beard, or other areas of the body,” says Dr Albert Ndata, Rwanda Military hospital.
It can also be caused by microsporum canis, which is spread by cats and dogs. This type is less common but causes a more severe infection.
According to Dr Ian Shyaka, a general practitioner at Rwanda Military Hospital, ringworm occurs in people of all ages, and occurs most often in warm, moist climates. Ringworm is a contagious disease and can be passed from person to person by contact with infected skin.
He explains that humans and animals can contract ringworm after direct contact with soil where the fungus lives as spores.
Shyaka further says ringworm causes a scaly, crusted rash that may appear as round, red patches on the skin but other symptoms and signs of ringworm include patches of hair loss or scaling on the scalp, itching, and blister-like lesions.
Ndata notes that the infection can also spread through contact with infected animals, especially cats and dogs. The infection is commonly spread among children and youth through sharing personal hygiene items, clothes and shoes, he adds.
According to American Academy of Dermatology, when one develops dry skin on the palm or deep cracks on the palms, they should see a dermatologist. The infection may spread to the fingernails and can be mistaken for extremely dry skin or dry, thick skin due to working with hands.
“The infected person can have a raised border, skin can flake, peel, and crack, the infected skin can be intensely itchy and painful but not always; this develops in men who grow facial hair.
One may also notice intense redness and swelling, pus-filled bumps, swollen lymph nodes, raw, open skin, raised soft, spongy skin that weeps fluid, open sores oozing pus, raised soft, spongy, inflamed area, swollen lymph nodes and intense itching,” studies indicate.
“Ringworm can be treated with topical medications, such as antifungal creams, ointments, gels, or sprays,” Ndata says.
Ringworm of the scalp or nails may require oral medications such as ketoconazole or griseofulvin, but over-the-counter medications and antifungal skin creams containing clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine are helpful, he says.
“Improving personal hygiene (showering regularly, trimming nails, washing hair, combing, brushing teeth, and shaving), disinfecting clothes and beddings, cleaning and drying the affected area and using antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present as well help to keep ringworm away” he explains.
Ndata urges people to avoid sharing rooms with pets and to wash their hands with soap and clean water after attending to animals.
Shyaka also notes that ringworm can be successfully treated with antifungal medications either applied locally to the affected skin or taken orally.
He says symptoms usually clear in three to four weeks of treatment.