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Creams that kill fungi

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There's good research showing that antifungal creams cure ringworm for most people.

Ringworm is caused by a fungus that grows on your skin. There are several antifungal creams that either kill the fungi or stop them growing. These creams work for ringworm of the body and for ringworm of the groin.

You can buy several different antifungal creams from a pharmacist. Here are some examples:

  • clotrimazole (brand name Canesten AF cream)

  • econazole (Ecostatin and Pevaryl)

  • ketoconazole (Nizoral)

  • miconazole (Daktarin)

  • terbinafine (Lamisil).

Some of these antifungal creams are advertised as treatments for athlete's foot. You may also be able to use them for ringworm. Ask your pharmacist if you want to know whether a particular product is suitable for you.

Research shows that ringworm starts to clear up for about 8 in 10 people when they use an antifungal cream. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

Studies also use laboratory tests to see if all the fungi have been killed by treatment. In most studies, about 8 in 10 or 9 in 10 people were totally free from fungi after using an antifungal cream for a week or two.

Most of the different creams seem to work about as well as each other. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] But some, such as terbinafine, work faster than the others. This is an advantage, as you may only need to use the cream for a week or so. In one study, using terbinafine for one week worked at least as well as using ketoconazole for two weeks. [11]

It’s important to follow the instructions that come with your treatment. You may need to apply the cream several times a day, and keep using it for a few days, or even weeks, after the rash has disappeared. If your rash doesn't start to improve after using a cream for a week or two, see your doctor.

You'll need to keep the infected patch of skin clean and dry. If you have ringworm of the groin, wear loose cotton underwear, such as boxer shorts, instead of tight briefs. [18]

Doctors sometimes recommend a cream that combines an antifungal drug and a steroid, such as hydrocortisone. Doctors can prescribe a cream containing miconazole and hydrocortisone (brand name Daktacort).

The idea is that the steroid helps with inflammation, and the antifungal drug gets rid of the infection. But steroids aren't recommended on their own for ringworm. They could make it worse, by hiding the symptoms without treating the fungal infection. [19]

If you have severe ringworm, or ringworm that affects a large area of your skin, your doctor may suggest antifungal tablets instead of a cream. But for most people, creams work just as well as tablets. [20]

You can get antifungal sprays and powders as well as creams. We didn't find any research on sprays or powders, so we can't be sure how well they work for ringworm. But powders probably aren't as good as creams. [21]

In studies, not many people got side effects from using an antifungal cream. But a few people got skin irritation. [13] [15]



Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.

For more terms related to Ringworm


For references related to Ringworm click here.
Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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