What's the Treatment for Ringworm?

The treatment you need for ringworm depends on where the infection is on your body and how severe it is. In many cases, your doctor may recommend a drug you can buy over-the-counter (OTC) at your local drugstore. Others require a prescription.

If the infection is on your skin – as in the case of athlete’s foot or jock itch – your doctor will likely suggest an OTC antifungal cream, lotion, or powder. Some of the most popular include:

In most cases, you’ll have to use the medicines on your skin for 2 to 4 weeks to make sure you kill the fungus that causes ringworm. It’ll also lower your chances of it coming back.

If you have ringworm on your scalp or in many different places on your body, OTC treatments may not be enough. Your doctor will write you a prescription for an antifungal medication that you’ll have to take by mouth for 1 to 3 months. You might also have to use an antifungal shampoo.

Common Prescriptions for Ringworm

Griseofulvin (Grifulvin V, Gris-PEG), Terbinafine, and Itraconazole are the oral medicines doctors prescribe most often for ringworm.

  • Terbinafine. If your doctor puts you on these tablets, you’ll have to take them once a day for 4 weeks. They work in most cases. Side effects usually are mild and don’t last long. They might include nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, and rashes. You won’t get a prescription for this if you have liver disease or lupus.
  • Griseofulvin. You’d have to take this for 8 to 10 weeks. It’s also available as a spray. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, mild diarrhea, headache, and indigestion. Griseofulvin can cause birth defects, so you can’t take it if you’re pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Men should use condoms during sex for up to 6 months after stopping treatment. It also can cause birth control pills not to work. Use condoms or another form of contraception if you’re on it. And, you shouldn’t drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking it.
  • Itraconazole. This is prescribed in pill form for 7 or 15 days. It’s not for use in children, the elderly, or those with severe liver disease. While taking it, you may experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion, diarrhea, or headache. See your doctor if your symptoms or infection gets worse or doesn’t get better after you’ve finished your treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on October 17, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Treatment for Ringworm.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Ringworm and Other Fungal Infections – Treatment.”

Summit Medical Group Foundation: “Ringworm.”

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