Skin

Updated 25 April 2017

5 places you can get ringworm

From your scalp to your groin, ringworm can infect many parts of your body.

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Ringworm is a contagious skin condition that is especially prevalent among children. According to a Health24 review, up to 20% of people will have ringworm at some stage of their lives.

Let's look at five body parts that are commonly affected by ringworm:   

1. Scalp (tinea capitis)

Ringworm of the scalp mainly infects children, but adults can get it too. Pets may carry the fungal infection on their skin underneath their fur. Children often pet, groom, or play with their pets, not knowing they are infected, and end up getting infected too. 

Animals leave traces of the fungus on surfaces they come into contact with, such as beds and couches. Once a person's head touches these surfaces, the fungus may infest their scalp. Sharing combs and hats with other people may also cause the fungus to spread.

fungal infection,ringworm,jock itch,athlete's foot

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2. Hands (tinea manus)

We use our hands to touch the things around us, making this a common area affected by ringworm. It can be contracted through contact with an infected person, object or animal, but the most common way for hands to get infected is by touching other infected body parts and not washing our hands properly afterwards. (Ringworm gets itchy, so people tend to scratch.) 

fungal infection,ringworm,jock itch,athlete's foot

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3. Groin (tinea cruris) 

This is commonly known as jock itch, and generally affects men. Jock itch is an itchy rash in the groin area, usually in the crease between the scrotum and thighs, but it often spreads. Skinny jeans can cause jock itch as tight-fitting clothing traps moisture from sweat, creating an ideal environment for the fungus to grow.

Research shows that fungi thrive in warm, moist areas of the body, like the groin and feet. People who are overweight are more likely to get ringworm here if they sweat a lot and have folds of overlapping skin. 

fungal infection,ringworm,jock itch,athlete's foot
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4. Nails (tinea unguium) 

Ringworm of the nails generally affects the toenails more than the fingernails (not to be confused with athlete's foot). It can for example be contracted at the gym. When you exercise, you usually wear sneakers or tight shoes, and chances are good that you'll have sweaty feet and damp shoes by the end of the session. This damp and moist environment is ideal for the fungus to grow.

You can also contract the fungal infection if you wear closed shoes at work. It is important to ensure that shoes get enough air and dry out properly once you take them off.

fungal infection,ringworm,jock itch,athlete's foot
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5. Feet (tinea pedis)

Most commonly known as athlete's foot, ringworm of the feet is caused by the same fungus that causes jock itch. Public bathrooms and public showers are ideal places for the fungus to grow. If you walk barefoot in for instance a public restroom or shower, it’s likely that you'll come into contact with this fungus. 

As mentioned, athlete's foot should not be confused with ringworm of the toenails. When using a public restroom, always wear closed shoes, and when stepping into a public shower make sure you're wearing flip-flops. 

fungal infection,ringworm,jock itch,athlete's foot

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Read more:

Busting 11 myths about ringworm Fungal infection

What causes skin disease?

How to cure ringworm

 

Ask the Expert

Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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