Remedies for Ringworm

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 19, 2020

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection. It gets its name from the circular pattern it grows in. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not a worm. It is a fungus. 

The medical terms for ringworm are tinea or dermatophytosis. It also has other names depending on where it is on your body. For example, ringworm on the feet is called athlete's foot and ringworm in the groin is called jock itch.

Both people and animals can get ringworm. The fungus spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or animal. It can also spread from objects and soil to people. There are a few signs to watch out for that may indicate a ringworm infection on your body such as:

  • A scaly, itchy, ring-shaped patch on your body
  • The ring may have red bumps inside of it
  • It may also have overlapping rings or multiple raised rings that expand outwards

Additionally, there are both external and internal factors that could increase your risk of getting ringworm. These include:

  • Living in a warm area
  • Participating in contact sports
  • Wearing tight clothes frequently
  • A weak or compromised immune system
  • Close contact with someone who has ringworm

Remedies for Ringworm

Keep Clean

Keeping things clean prevents the infection from spreading to other parts of your body as well as to other people and animals in your household. It will also prevent reinfection once yours has cleared up.

Here are ways to keep things clean when you have a ringworm infection:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after you touch a ringworm-affected area
  • Shower directly after working out or participating in sports
  • Wear flip flops in public showers
  • Wash bedding, clothes, and towels used by anyone with ringworm in hot water
  • Clean the affected area with soap, and dry with a different towel from the rest of your body
  • Wear fresh clothes — especially undergarments — every day
  • Wash your clothes regularly and keep them dry when not in use
  • Throw out or disinfect shoes in the case of athlete's foot

Over the Counter Antifungals

You can treat most cases of ringworm at home with over-the-counter antifungals. Popular choices include clotrimazole (Lotrimin) and tolnaftate topical (Tinactin). Healthcare companies market these products for athlete's foot, but they will also work on ringworm of the body and jock itch. After a few days of twice-daily application, you should begin to see your ringworm clearing up. Medical experts recommend using the cream daily for a month to fully wipe out the infection.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil made from the leaves of the Australian tea tree. Early studies show it does work as an antifungal against ringworm. Other studies show that it works against athlete's foot when applied as a cream. You should only use tea tree oil topically as it is toxic if ingested.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Some sources suggest treating ringworm with apple cider vinegar by rubbing some on the infected area and covering it with a bandage. Studies show this vinegar does have some antifungal properties. However, doctors warn that, due to its acidic nature, apple cider vinegar can cause open sores and scarring when used to treat ringworm. 

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor for ringworm if you have been using over-the-counter antifungal medication for two weeks and have not seen an improvement. Your doctor will likely prescribe you a stronger anti-fungal medication.

In rare cases, fungal infections may travel below the skin and infect the internal organs. This mostly happens in people with weakened immune systems, like in those with HIV or AIDS. If you are immuno-compromised and get a fungal infection, make sure to treat it promptly to avoid a more serious infection.

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatology Association: "RINGWORM: 12 TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST RESULTS FROM TREATMENT."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Ringworm."

Cleveland Clinic: "How to Cure Ringworm."

J Prosthodont: "Antifungal Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar on Candida Species Involved in Denture Stomatitis."

Mayo Clinic: "Ringworm (body)."

Mayo Clinic: "Tea tree oil."

Phytomedicine: "Antifungal activity of tea tree oil from Melaleuca alternifolia against Trichophyton equinum: an in vivo assay."

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