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Everything to know about ringworm treatments at home

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At-home treatmentPrescription treatmentsHow to stop spreadWhat is ringworm?How does it spread?Takeaway
Ringworm is an itchy, uncomfortable infection caused by a fungus (not a worm). But it can be hard to treat, and it spreads easily. You can take steps to prevent its spread.
Medically reviewed by Bukky Aremu, APRN
Written by Lily Frew
Updated on

Ringworm, known medically as tinea corporis, is not actually caused by worms. It’s a fungal infection of the skin that leads to a rash, which takes the form of concentric rings.

The fungus spreads very easily, and the rash it causes can be very uncomfortable and itchy. So you may be wondering how to treat it. Plenty of creams and medications, as well as home treatments, can help you manage it.

How to treat ringworm at home

A person shown from the neck down applying ringworm cream to the back of their forearm.
triocean/Getty Images

Ringworm can be itchy and uncomfortable. You can manage the infection at home in several ways.

OTC medications

You can buy certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications and apply them in the comfort of your own home. These treatments are known as antifungals. They usually come in the form of creams, ointments, or powders that you apply to your skin.

Examples include:

Treatment usually lasts for around 2–4 weeks. If OTC medications don’t clear up the fungus after this time, you may want to speak with a healthcare professional who could prescribe stronger treatments.

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Home remedies

Alongside medications, you may also consider trying some home remedies to stop the itch, one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of ringworm.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association has some recommendations to help manage itchiness. These include:

  • using a cold, damp cloth or ice pack on itching skin
  • taking an oatmeal bath, which can soothe itchy skin
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing to avoid irritation

It’s important to note that these methods won’t get rid of the infection. They’ll just manage the itching it causes.

A few herbal remedies might also have antifungal properties. These include:

  • Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera is a plant that has several different medicinal properties. Some 2021 research comparing aloe vera gel with OTC antifungal creams found that aloe vera can stop fungus growth on the skin, especially when combined with medicinal treatments.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has many benefits, and some 2018 research suggests that it may have antifungal properties.
  • Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil also has many benefits, and some research from 2020 suggests it might have antifungal properties that can help work against ringworm.

Prescription treatments

If OTC and home remedies don’t get rid of your infection, you may consider speaking with a doctor about prescription medications. These are often stronger versions of the OTC creams.

If the infection is severe or widespread, a doctor may even prescribe some oral antifungal tablets. Some examples include fluconazole (Diflucan) and griseofulvin (Grifulvin V).

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How do you keep it from spreading?

The first step to stop the spread is to get an official diagnosis. Many ringworm infections go undiagnosed because people confuse the rashes with other ringlike skin irritations, such as psoriasis or eczema.

Once your doctor confirms ringworm is the culprit, follow these steps to contain the spread:

  • Keep the area very dry, as dermatophytes (skin fungus) grow better in warm, moist environments.
  • Become a clean machine. This is tedious work, but it’s necessary.
  • Wash your hands every time you touch the rash and before you touch anything else.
  • Use one towel to dry the affected area after a shower and another towel for the rest of your body. Wash both towels after every shower. The same goes for clothes and linens. Otherwise, the infection could come right back.
  • Regularly disinfect any surfaces or objects that have come into contact with the rash.

Continue this routine until your doctor gives you the all-clear.

What actually is ringworm?

Ringworm is caused by a skin fungus called a dermatophyte. These dermatophytes nest in the outermost layer of skin, known as the epidermis.

They like this spot because it’s warm, which helps them grow. Once they get busy multiplying, you see symptoms such as flaking skin, discoloration, and sometimes swelling. The rings usually start small, then spread outward.

You can develop ringworm just about anywhere on your body. But there are some places where it tends to pop up more often. Hands are a common spot. Faces, too, since people touch them so often.

How did ringworm get into my house?

The infection is mainly caused by human-to-human contact, and kids are especially susceptible because of how closely they play together.

But human contact isn’t the only way you can get ringworm. You can pick it up from surfaces (including towels, blankets, toys, and brushes). And you can get it from animals, such as dogs, cats, and even cows.


Ringworm is a very common infection that can cause uncomfortable itching and discolored rings on your skin. It isn’t caused by a worm, but a type of fungus. It’s spread very easily from skin-to-skin contact, and it’s very common among kids, so it may have been brought home by you or your child.

Several OTC medications are available to treat ringworm, and you might want to try some natural home remedies as well. If those options don’t help, a doctor might prescribe stronger medications.

You can also take steps to prevent the spread of ringworm at home, including making sure you wash all towels and bedding. Plus, try to keep the affected area clean and dry.

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