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When Is Ringworm Not Contagious? Here’s 8 Important Things You Should Know

 Monsoons call for plenty of skin allergies and one such dangerous allergy is ringworm. These allergies appear on the skin in the form of rings, hence the name ringworms. Dive further into the article to find out when is ringworm not contagious and follow along with the precautionary methods provided.

1. Is Ringworm a Worm?

The name ringworm is suggestive of a disease caused by a worm. This, however, is incorrect. Ringworm is a misnomer. It is essentially an infection caused by a fungal infection.

There are at least 40 species of fungus that are incriminated for causing ringworm. Its scientific name is ‘dermatophytosis’.

Why call it Ringworm? The lesion of the ringworm infection is such that it appears like a worm that is ring-shaped, hence the name. Ringworm infection is an itchy, red, circular rash.

It can occur in various parts of the body – the arms, feet, groin, hair and scalp, nails, palms, and face. Depending on which part it occurs, the name used to describe it changes. For example, when it occurs in the groin, it is a jock itch.

When the feet become involved it becomes athlete’s foot. These two kinds are the commonly occurring kinds of ringworm lesions. Isn’t it interesting, that the name easily suggests the part that it may be affecting?

Ringworm is an infectious as well as a highly contagious fungal infection. It easily spreads from one person to another affecting the epidermis of skin, which is the outermost layer of the skin.

2. Difference Between Infectious and Contagious Diseases

An infectious disease is caused by harmful microorganisms that enter our body through an external environment. When a healthy person comes in contact with these disease-causing entities he becomes ‘infected’ with a particular disease.

Every infectious disease must be contagious is not the rule, however, any contagious disease is infectious. Ringworm is a highly contagious one caused by fungal spores. Contagious diseases spread from one person to another fairly easily through various means. Direct skin contact with an infected person, which is how the ringworm lesion spreads, is one of the many ways contagious diseases spread.

Can a contagious disease become non-contagious? When is ringworm not contagious?

3. Presentation of Ringworm

A ringworm lesion is a red, itchy, scaly patch which has raised margins and a flat centre. The patches resemble a ring, from which it gets its name. Sometimes, these patches may also ooze some fluid. Areas covered with hair like arms, and legs when affected may also lose hair in the region where the ringworm lesion is present. When located in these areas it is known as Tinea corporis.

Patches of ringworm spread when using belongings like towels of an infected person. It can often be seen in people who share locker rooms, use public showers, are engaged in contact sports like wrestling, and work with animals closely.

It is also seen in people who sweat excessively. Skin-to-skin contact or direct skin contact with an infected pet can also cause ringworm lesions to develop.

Let us further understand the ringworm by diving into the basics of a disease.

Ringworm in toenail
By Alex/Unlimphotos.

4. What is the Incubation Period?

To understand the highly contagious ringworm infection, let us try and grasp what the incubation period is. When a disease-causing microbe enters the body, our body puts its best foot forward to prevent the organism from multiplying and causing the disease. However, many times the opponent is formidable and the fort falls and the disease occurs. This period is essentially known as the incubation period.

Ringworm infection-causing fungal spores can spread from infected skin to healthy skin by coming in direct contact. Fundamentally, it can spread even when it does not show up on the skin of the infected person.

The incubation period for ringworm is usually one to two weeks. In pets this period can be longer, ranging from two to four weeks.

Fungal spores which cause ringworm found on inanimate objects
By PongMoji/Unlimphotos.

5. For How Long Is Ringworm Contagious and When Is Ringworm Not Contagious?

Ringworm-causing fungal spores are known to remain alive in the environment for as long as twelve to twenty months. Certain species of fungal spores are responsible for causing ringworms to thrive in tropical environments. They sustain for a long period. Some species are also found in the soil, from where the infection can thus be contracted.

One could catch ringworm in such an environment easily if personal hygiene is not practised diligently.

When is ringworm not contagious? A contagious disease spreads on coming in contact with an infected person
By BrightSource/Unlimphotos. Royalty Free License

Ringworm infections can run a long course till they heal completely. When not treated and allowed to heal on its own, it can take several weeks to months sometimes. Antifungal cream like terbinafine for a four-week course is usually prescribed. Other prescription antifungal medications like miconazole and ketoconazole can also be used as treatment options.

Oral antifungal medications are used in severe cases involving the scalp caused by Microsporum canis, (a species of fungus). Have you wondered if a contagious disease can become non-contagious? When is ringworm not contagious?

Once the medications start, the ringworm lesion slowly clears up and does not remain contagious. This is the time when is ringworm is not contagious. Usually with proper medication, it clears up in 2 to 4 weeks. In short till any ringworm-causing organism is present on the skin, a person remains highly contagious.

6. How To Know When To Seek Medical Help?

A ringworm lesion usually starts with an itch. It starts small but slowly expands over some time. In a healthy person, the infection usually clears out with medical care in a few weeks, but in people whose immunity is compromised treatment takes longer and can also prove to be a serious infection.

However, ringworm infection of the nails called Tinea unguium proves difficult to heal.  The shape of the nails is deformed even when the infection clears out completely. Once contracted, however, avoid scratching the ringworm lesion.

when is ringworm not contagious
By Spukkato/Unlimphotos. Royalty free licence

7. How To Prevent Ringworm Infections?

Adequate measures must be taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

7.1 Avoid Infected Animals

If it is known that an animal is infected, care must be taken around it. Gloves must be used when handling the animal and articles around it should be disinfected.

7.2 Change Clothes Often

In case of excessive sweating care must be taken to control it, like changing clothes frequently.

7.3  Refrain from Sharing Personal Items

Do not share personal items like towels, or combs with other people as it can lead to developing infections.

8. FAQs

8.1. Is ringworm an infection caused by worms?

Answer: Ringworm is a fungal infection. It is not caused by worms.

8.2. Is ringworm contagious?

Answer: Yes ringworm remains contagious till they are treated properly and effectively.

8.3. When is ringworm not contagious?

Answer:  It takes anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes however, it can also take months for the lesion to clear up. This is the time when ringworm is not contagious.

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by