How to Get Rid of Ringworm
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm isn't a worm at all. It's a fungal infection that is not only contagious, but also pretty embarrassing. There are many ways to catch it: from people or pets that carry it, or even brushing up against something that has been infested with the fungus. Jock itch and athlete's foot are also related forms of the fungus. I have heard of people catching these infections by sharing showers, toilets, and even from dirty clothes in your hamper.
I recently got a case of ringworm about the size of a dime on the inside of my thigh close to a joint. This was a problem because my job requires me to move for eight or more hours a day, and my clothes would rub off any treatment I applied to the infection. The following is a chronicle of my frustrating three-month journey of trying to cure this irritating rash.
The remedies covered in this article are:
- Over-the-counter creams
- Rubbing alcohol
- Clear nail polish
- Prescription creams
- Natural remedies, specifically tobacco and lime
- Garlic oil
- Dandruff shampoo
The first thing I tried for my ringworm was over-the-counter cream. Common anti-fungal creams include Tinactin and Lamisil. The cream I had in my house were expired, left over from a previous infection. I figured it should still work. So I applied it twice a day for two weeks, covering it with a bandage after each application.
If anti-fungal creams sit on the shelf they lose some, if not all, of their effectiveness over long periods of time. Still, even these old creams made my infection fade. After a few days, the original spot had all but disappeared, but I had grown two larger spots on either side of the original area. Both were larger than the original and itched.
I think my mistake was in using a bandage with strong adhesive. When I pulled off the bandage, I pulled it off quickly so it wouldn't hurt, but in doing so I pulled off the top layer of skin on either side of the infection, exposing the area to catching ringworm.
Rubbing Alcohol as an Anti-Fungal
When the cream didn't seem to be working, I looked for other ways to kill the fungus and decided to try rubbing alcohol. I read online that applying it twice a day would kill the infection. To keep from spreading the ringworm to the bottle or anything else I was using, I soaked q-tips in the alcohol and rubbed it over the infected area. I did not put the q-tips back into the alcohol.
I tried the rubbing alcohol for a couple of days but when I applied it, the burning sensation was quite painful. I thought I could deal with it if the infection would go away, but it didn't work. If I were to do it again I might soak a piece of cotton in the alcohol and hold it down over the spot for several minutes.
Can Clear Nail Polish Suffocate Fungus?
I decided to try another home remedy I read about online: clear nail polish. It supposedly suffocates the fungus.
I tried this for over two weeks, and, like the rubbing alcohol, it burned. If you try this, be sure to use a q-tip, not the nail polish brush. Don't double-dip the q-tip either. If you do, you can spread the fungus to other parts of your body or to someone else if they use the nail polish.
After the first week, the two spots that had each grown half-dollar size on my thigh started to fade. The only problem was the nail polish would not stay put because of my constant movement at work.
Though some of the ringworm faded, the patch right in my groin still held out. This area was hard to treat since it was right in my joint. No matter how I applied the nail polish it continued to grow.
Prescription Creams for an Infection
I was so frustrated. At this point, I had had this infection for nearly two months. I decided to spend the money to see a doctor. When I told her I had ringworm, she took a quick look and wrote a prescription. I was diagnosed and kicked out within fifteen minutes. We won't talk about how much I paid to have the doctor look at me for that little bit of time.
I had the prescription filled and started applying it to the infection, which at this point had grown to the size of an orange. It was way too large to cover with a bandage at this point, so I made sure I was changing clothes regularly and washing them in hot water to kill any spores that might have found their way into the hamper.
The cream was a ten-day treatment, and it did help. At the end of the ten days, the ring was no longer visible. It wasn't gone completely, and I was left with a large red spot that didn't itch anymore.
Lime, Tobacco, and Garlic: Natural Remedies for Infection?
When the prescription cream failed to completely get rid of the ringworm, I finally decided to call in my family's matriarchs for help. I contacted one of the older women in my family and asked her how she dealt with it when we were kids. She told me about a strange home remedy. She would smoke half a cigarette, then open it up and rub the unused tobacco onto the spot and let the chemicals absorb into the skin. From what I understand, the chemicals will kill the fungus almost immediately. She said that I probably would not have to apply it more than twice before it went away.
The problem with the tobacco remedy is that I am not a smoker. She also told me that limes would do the same thing, so I decided to try the lime first.
I cut a slice of lime then lay it over the worst spot on my leg. It burned as the acidic juices seeped out of the lime and into the infection. I let it sit there for nearly fifteen minutes. I did this twice a day for another week and a half. When I didn't have the time to lay the lime, I applied what I had left of the prescription cream. When I ran out of the prescription cream, I sprayed on an athlete's foot spray. Finally, the entire thing faded away.
Garlic Oil as an Anti-Fungal Remedy?
There is an old wives' remedy that uses garlic oil to kill the ringworm fungus. You can do this in several ways. You can buy garlic oil in gel capsules from a health food store or your local pharmacy. They're relatively expensive, but you will have a long term supply and garlic supplements are good for you anyway.
The second and cheaper way is to buy a head of garlic and cut one of the cloves in half. Then rub clove onto the infected area, releasing the oils from the clove. You will not get as much oil as with the capsules, but this method may provide some relief.
Be sure to purchase garlic oil, rather than garlic-infused olive oil, which is not the same thing. There is most likely not enough garlic in the infused oil to do any good.
Bleach as a Cure?
One remedy I've heard of, which frankly scares me, is using bleach. This seems risky. Straight bleach will burn your skin if you leave it on too long. I also know that a few drops in a gallon of water will kill all the bacteria and make the water safe to drink, and diluted bleach is also used to clean swimming pools. So the question is, how much bleach do you need to kill the ringworm but not harm your skin?
Some of the suggestions I have found online say to mix one part water with one part bleach. Then dab the bleach onto the skin and let it dry. They suggest you leave the bleach there to do its work. The next day wash the area and apply again.
Again, this treatment concerns me. I think the bleach will damage your skin, but it is a cure that's out there.
Fresh Urine as a Cure?
This is another one of those old wives' tales. Do I want you to pee on yourself? No, I don't. I think that is gross. But if you are at your wit's end and have nothing else to try, then sure, why not?
Urine does have medicinal properties, according to some traditions. I have heard that urine will remove the stinging of a jellyfish. Some people say urine is sterile, but this isn't entirely true. By the time it leaves the body, urine has collected some bacteria. Still, it is said to have antiseptic properties.
Can Dandruff Shampoo Be a Cure?
Most dandruff shampoos contain pyrithione zinc, which is believed to prevent and slow the spread of ringworm when used on the entire body. While it may not cure it, if you have it, the shampoo may prevent it from spreading further.
Nicotine Patches: Get Rid of Infection and Quit Smoking at the Same Time?
My mother-in-law suggested rubbing partially smoked tobacco on the infected area. Similarly many people have found that the nicotine—the addictive chemical in tobacco—can kill the infection.
I think this is a fantastic remedy, provided you're already using the nicotine patch to curb a smoking habit. If it really helps with two problems at the same time, then you have a double win. How many times during your life does this happen?