Ringworm (also known as jock itch) is a common fungal skin infection of the groin. Sometimes doctors call it the medical term tinea cruris - we should be clear it has nothing to do with worms! This fungal infection usually occurs in warm, moist areas such as the groin or in the armpit area or feet (where it is called tinea pedis or athletes foot). It produces symptoms of a rash that is usually red, sore and itchy and has clear edges that can form a ring-like pattern. It is commonly found in athletes and the elderly but can affect anyone. It is often found in the crease of the groin and can spread a short way down the upper thigh. The majority of cases are mild and can be treated easily with over the counter anti-fungal creams available from your pharmacist. If the medication is for a child you will be asked to see the doctor first rather than getting an over the counter cream. There are a number of different antifungal creams available (you will see names such as terbinafine, clotrimazole, econazole and miconazole) so check the directions that come with each cream as it will tell you how often and how long to use the cream for. Apply the cream to the affected area and to the non-affected skin that is up to 5cm around the affected area.
The condition is contagious and can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or indirectly through towels, clothing and bedding. You should avoid sharing towels, clothing and wash your hands well after touching infected areas and wash bedding regularly to help prevent spread.
There are many creams, gels and sprays which are very effective to help clear up this condition. Some people find a gel-based treatment to be cooling for intense itching and irritation. Alternatively using a spray such as Lamisil AT 1% spray can help to dry up any excess moisture from sweat, and reduce friction and irritation as well as treat the infection with a convenient once-daily application.
If you have jock itch (tinea cruris) you are still fit for work.
You should arrange a routine appointment with your doctor if your symptoms are not improving after 1 - 2 weeks, if you have a temperature or if the skin is broken or severely inflamed as you are at risk of additional bacterial infections. You should also arrange a routine doctors appointment if it is a child who has a suspected fungal infection. The doctor may give you a steroid cream to use in addition to the anti-fungal cream or oral medication to treat the infection. They may also take a swab to double-check that the infection is definitely jock itch (tinea cruris).