Understanding the difference between ringworms and intestinal worms to help treat and deworm

The most common types include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Picture: RF Studio / Pexels

The most common types include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Picture: RF Studio / Pexels

Published Jul 25, 2023


When it comes to worms, there are two distinct types that can affect humans: ringworms and intestinal worms. While both share the name “worm”, they are entirely different in nature and require separate approaches for understanding, treatment, and deworming.

The first thing to know about ringworms is that there are no worms involved.

Ringworm, despite its misleading name, is not caused by worms but rather a fungal infection that affects the skin, scalp, and nails. It manifests as red, itchy, and circular rashes that can spread rapidly.

Ringworm, medically known as, dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or tinea — is a fungal infection of the skin caused by various fungi that thrive in warm and humid environments.

It is highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, animal, or contaminated surfaces such as towels, clothing, or gym equipment. Children, athletes, and individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible.

Despite the name, they do not always form a ring-shaped rash and are generally not life-threatening, it can cause significant discomfort and complications if left untreated.

Ringworm is widespread worldwide, affecting millions of people each year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dermatophyte infections, including ringworm, account for approximately 40% of all superficial fungal infections globally.

Intestinal worms, however, are actual worms that infest the gastrointestinal tract. The most common types include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Intestinal worms are typically contracted by ingesting worm eggs or larvae through contaminated food, water, or soil. They can also be transmitted through poor hygiene practices or close contact with infected individuals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1.5 billion individuals worldwide are affected by soil-transmitted helminth infections (roundworm, whipworm, hookworm).

Symptoms of intestinal worms may vary depending on the type, but common signs include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, anaemia, fatigue and malnutrition.

Deworming refers to the process of treating and eliminating intestinal worms. The timing for deworming depends on various factors, including age, risk factors, and geographic location. Here are some general guidelines:

Children: Children are particularly susceptible to intestinal worms. Regular deworming is recommended every 6-12 months, especially in areas with high worm prevalence or poor sanitation.

High-Risk Individuals: Individuals living in areas with poor sanitation and crowded conditions, or who have frequent exposure to contaminated soil or water, should also consider regular deworming.

Travellers: Individuals travelling to regions with a high prevalence of intestinal worms should consult a healthcare professional to determine if deworming is necessary before and after their trip.

Understanding the differences between ringworms and intestinal worms is crucial for proper identification, treatment, and deworming. While ringworms are fungal infections affecting the skin, scalp, or nails, intestinal worms are actual worms that infest the gastrointestinal tract.

Deworming recommendations vary based on age, risk factors, and geographic location. Regular deworming, especially for children and high-risk individuals, can help prevent and control the spread of intestinal worms.

Consulting with healthcare professionals and following local guidelines will ensure the most effective approach to deworming and maintaining overall health and well-being.

The crucial difference between ringworms and intestinal worms lies in their causes and affected areas.

Ringworms are caused by fungi and primarily affect the skin, while intestinal worms are caused by parasitic worms and reside in the digestive system. Treatment for each condition varies accordingly.

Ringworms are typically treated with antifungal creams, ointments, or oral medications prescribed by healthcare professionals. Proper hygiene practices and avoiding contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces, are key preventive measures.

Intestinal worm infections require specific medications, which target the specific type of worm involved. Improving sanitation, practising good hygiene and avoiding the consumption of undercooked or contaminated food are preventive strategies.