Ringworm and School Sports

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By Lauren Kolacki

Ringworm is very common. Anyone can get ringworm, but people who have weakened immune systems may be especially at risk for infection and may have problems fighting off a ringworm infection. People who use public showers or locker rooms, athletes (particularly those who are involved in contact sports such as wrestling), people who wear tight shoes and have excessive sweating, and people who have close contact with animals may also be more likely to come in contact with the fungi that cause ringworm.

Ringworm, or tinea, is a fungal infection of the skin. It does not involve an actual worm; it gets its name from the red, circular rash it produces. The infection can be spread easily by direct contact or indirect contact through shared clothing or sports equipment.

Most skin conditions do not affect sports participation, but ringworm typically does. Because ringworm can be spread through gym mats, helmets and towels as well as by direct contact, most sports activities, particularly those involving skin-to-skin contact, are off-limits to students diagnosed with ringworm.

The telltale symptom of ringworm is a round rash with a raised, rough, scaly border. As the rash gets larger, the center tends to clear, giving the appearance of a round worm under the skin. Though no such worm is present, the ring continues to grow if left untreated and is usually somewhat itchy. Any rash fitting this description that doesn’t disappear after two weeks may be ringworm.

To prevent ringworm, keep your skin clean and dry. Wear shoes that allow air to circulate freely around your feet. Don’t walk barefoot in areas like locker rooms or public showers. Clip your fingernails and toenails short and keep them clean. Change your socks and underwear at least once a day.
Don’t share clothing, towels, sheets, or other personal items with someone who has ringworm.

If you’re an athlete involved in close contact sports, shower immediately after your practice session or match, and keep all of your sports gear and uniform clean. Don’t share sports gear (helmet, etc.) with other players. If there is a ringworm outbreak at your child’s school/daycare center, contact your local health de- partment for more information. Tell your child not to share personal items, such as clothing, hairbrushes, and hats, with other people. Take your child to see a pediatrician if he or she develops any symptoms. Also, check with your child’s school or daycare to see if he or she can still attend classes or participate in athletics.