Ringworm - What treatments work for ringworm?
BMJ Group Medical Reference
Ringworm is caused by a fungus. There are several drugs that can kill fungi or stop them growing. There's good research showing that these drugs can cure ringworm.
You can get antifungal drugs as creams or tablets. The type you need depends on where on your body the infection is, and sometimes on the type of fungus that's causing the infection.
Antifungal creams cure most people with body ringworm. You can buy antifungal creams yourself from a pharmacy.
For more severe ringworm infections, antifungal tablets work well. You need a doctor's prescription for these. Children with scalp ringworm always need to take tablets. Beard ringworm is also treated with tablets.
There are several different kinds of antifungal tablets. Most of the research shows that they all work about as well as each other. But newer drugs, like terbinafine, tend to work more quickly than the older ones, such as griseofulvin.
Some antifungal tablets work better against particular types of fungi. Your doctor may order laboratory tests to find out what sort of fungi are causing your ringworm. Tests are needed most often for children with scalp ringworm.
Which treatments work?
We've looked separately at ringworm that affects the body and ringworm that affects the scalp. They're treated in different ways.
What treatments work for ringworm on the body? Body or groin ringworm is usually treated with antifungal creams. There are several kinds that all work well, but some act faster than others. More...
What treatments work for ringworm of the scalp? Scalp ringworm usually affects children. It's treated with antifungal tablets, but a shampoo may also be used to help stop the infection spreading to other people. Beard ringworm is also treated with tablets, in a similar way to scalp ringworm. More...
There hasn't been much research on whether being careful about hygiene can help get rid of ringworm. But there are simple things you can try that might stop ringworm spreading, or prevent it coming back. To read more, see How to stop ringworm spreading.
What treatments work for ringworm on the body?
Ringworm that affects patches of skin on your body can normally be cured using an antifungal cream. But if large areas of skin are affected, your doctor may suggest taking tablets instead.
Creams are also used to treat groin ringworm (often called jock itch, or dhobie itch). Tablets can be used for severe groin ringworm, or ringworm that doesn't go away after using a cream.
Key points about treating ringworm on the body
There's good research showing that antifungal creams cure ringworm in most people who use them. Most of the research we found included some people with groin ringworm and some people with body ringworm.
Depending on which cream you use, you'll need to use it once or twice every day, for between one week and four weeks.
You can buy antifungal creams yourself from a pharmacist. See your doctor if these don't start to work after a week or two. See your doctor sooner if your rash is particularly severe or uncomfortable.
Severe ringworm, or ringworm that covers a large area of skin, may need treating with tablets. You'll need a doctor's prescription for these. There's good research showing that antifungal tablets can cure ringworm.
Good hygiene may help stop ringworm spreading, or prevent it from coming back. But it's unlikely that hygiene on its own will get rid of ringworm. To read more, see How to stop ringworm spreading.
We've looked closely at the research and given a rating for each treatment, according to how well it works.