go away worms!
September 28, 2011 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Recurring ringworm every few months - is it living inside me and resurfacing every once in a while, or do I just happen to get unlucky and come in contact with it all the time? How does ringworm work?

During the last year, I've had ringworm show up, mostly on my back, a few spots at a time, every few months (it would usually go away for months in between the infections). My doctor prescribed me a lotion that made the ringworm circles go away after 1-2 days, so it's not a terrible inconvenience, but when I asked her whether this is something that is living inside of me and resurfacing (say, when my immune system is lower or something?), or something that I happen to come in contact with all the time due to bad luck, she didn't have an answer. She just repeated the same information that I found on the internet - that wet warm places make the fungus live and spread. However, this is on my back, and the ringworms go away for months at a time, so it's not like my back is permanently sweaty/warm/moist. What made me really wonder about this recently is that I took 2 classes of bikram yoga (105F, hot and humid room, for 1.5 hours), 2 weeks apart, and after EACH CLASS I had ringworms show up, (but completely disappear before the second class). I used a brand new towel and yoga mat for the two classes, so it's doubtful that I got ringworm from someone in class (unless it's airborne?). The last time that I got it prior to the yoga, I was in Puerto Rico (also, hot and humid). Does being in a hot humid environment bring out the ringworm, if it is living inside of me? My friends who took bikram yoga and who were in Puerto Rico with me did not get ringworm (just as another data point).

I am mostly just curious about how it works and whether it re-appears or if each episode is a new infection. I don't want advice on how to treat it with something stronger that I would have to take internally, the topical lotion works well enough for me for now, unless it ever gets out of control.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it is possible to have a systematic fungal infection. It is also spread by contact and you could be giving it to yourself.

You may find the wikipedia entry relevant to your queries.

If it's coming back that frequently, you probably should see a doctor. It can be an indicator that your immune system is not functioning properly (most healthy people should fight it off most of the time), and may be severe enough that you need to go ahead and do a course of oral treatment to prevent additional harm to your system.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:35 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's probably the same infection recurring. It is very possible for the external evidence of the fungal infection to be suppressed by topical treatment but for enough of the fungal organism to be alive for a recurrence later. I don't know about heat/humidity connection. Pets can spread it (cats are common carriers, and it can be hard to tell because of the fur).

A possible solution is to keep treating it (up to even 8 weeks) and be very careful about infecting yourself, via sheets and blankets or clothing. You might want to put a dressing on it while you are treating it and change it once a day (i.e. before you shower), though once the visible signs are gone it is supposed to be suppressed as long as you keep treating it.

It is only spread by contact.

I know you don't want to take an oral medication, just be aware this option is available and might get rid of a persistent infection that is resisting topical eradication.
posted by nanojath at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2011

If you are only treating with the topical stuff for a day or two, what you are doing is breeding a resistant strain of fungus. You have to consistently use the cream for quite a while after the evidence of the rash is gone. Talk to your doctor about optimal length of treatment. If you have been following the instructions for length of treatment, please do consider an oral medication.
posted by bilabial at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2011

I had a ringworm years ago that used to show up on my calf. Topicals never did much. Oral meds killed it. Also knocked out the athlete's foot for several years afterwards, so there's an extra bonus for you.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2011

You might be reinfecting yourself from your towels, sheets and clothes. Unless you wash and dry on very high heat it might survive.

Also a birkram yoga studio is probably the best possible ringworm breeding ground. If you go in and touch anything or put a mat on the floor you're probably going to get it again.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:31 PM on September 28, 2011

Do you work with children?
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 2:53 PM on September 28, 2011

I'd guess you're just re-infecting yourself. If my experience with my cats is any indication, the cycle can continue for months if you're unlucky. Make sure your bedding/towels and everything you've ever worn while you had the ringworm rash is washed in hot water -- fungicidal soap can't hurt either.
posted by cgg at 3:14 PM on September 28, 2011

« Older What's an appropriate gift for an agent that...   |   Psychiatrist reco in Chicago, please Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.