Ringworm is caused by a fungus. It can be found in warm, moist areas such as locker rooms, shower stalls, damp clothes, or soil. Both people and pets can pick up the fungus from these areas.

The most common way to get ringworm is from skin to skin contact with someone who has it. People can also get it from an infected pet. The fungus can also live on objects for a long time. It can be passed by sharing infected, clothes, hats, towels, and personal grooming items.

Risk Factors

Ringworm is more common in children 3 to 7 years old.

Things that raise the risk of getting ringworm are:

  • Contact with surfaces, clothing, or personal grooming items used by an infected person
  • Skin to skin contact with an infected person or pet
  • Spending time in nurseries, schools, daycare centers, or locker rooms



Ringworm causes reddish patches with raised borders. They often appear as circles. The centers turn clear as the patch grows. This gives it a ring-like appearance. The patches:

  • May look pink or red on light skin and gray or brown on darker skin
  • Grow or spread to more areas over time
  • Can be very itchy

Symptoms may appear about 4 to 10 days after contact.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A skin exam will be done. Ringworm is often easily diagnosed by appearance. A sample of the affected area may be taken if it is not healing.



The goal of treatment is to kill the ringworm fungus.

Ringworm on the body, hands, or feet can often be treated with over-the-counter medicine. A prescription may be needed for ringworm that is more widespread or severe.

Medicines to help get rid of the fungus may include:

  • Creams or powders applied to the skin
  • Pills by mouth—for ringworm of the nails and scalp

Early treatment for scalp ringworm is important to prevent permanent hair loss.


To help reduce the risk of ringworm:

  • Avoid contact with any infected person, animal, surface, or object.
  • Do not share personal hair grooming items, clothing, or shoes.
  • Wear sandals in locker room areas.
  • Avoid scratching during infection. This will prevent ringworm from spreading to other areas.
  • Wear clothing that minimizes sweating and moisture build-up.
  • Wear breathable shoes or sandals.
  • Keep moisture-prone areas of the body clean and dry.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.