How Long is Ringworm Contagious?

A human skin with ringworm


This article is about how contagious ringworm is and how long it is contagious on human beings. Ringworm has an incubation period and this is the critical moment when it is highly contagious.

Ringworm is a highly contagious disease that can be easily passed on from person to person, from animal to person, from object to person or the other way around. It can be passed on through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or animal or through indirect contact with any surface or object that is touched by an infected person or animal. Infected house pets and farm animals remain contagious for up to three weeks if the recommended measures and treatments are not taken. Minimize exposure of infected animals to others until it recovers completely.

Just like other illnesses, the signs and symptoms of ringworm do not manifest right away. The signs and symptoms usually appear after four to ten days from initial infection. Ringworm of the scalp usually appears after ten days to about two weeks from initial infection.

How Long is Ringworm Contagious?

Ringworm infection could last from two to four weeks or even for more than a month depending on an individual’s immune system, the severity of the ringworm infection, and the reception of the body to treat. At the appearance of the first few signs and symptoms of ringworm, an infected person should start seeking treatment and start avoiding contact with other human beings and animals. Ringworm contagious period starts from the incubation stage up to its treatment.

Ringworm is contagious for as long as abrasions or lesions are present. It remains contagious as long as it is not treated that’s why it’s essential to seek treatment immediately at the first sighting or appearance of ringworm signs and symptoms. It could take a couple of months for ringworm to clear up on its own if it remains untreated. If you don’t seek treatment for ringworm and they remain to be there, the people and pets around you are most likely to contract the skin infection and the skin fungi may transfer to the objects that you touch and be transferred to your surroundings.

Ringworm is diagnosed by examining skin scrapings under a microscope. Other times, it is diagnosed by doing a fungal culture of the infected skin area. There are times that a person or an animal has already been infected by ringworm but there are no signs or symptoms that say so. This is the reason why some medical professionals recommend the immediate family members of infected individuals to undergo treatment as well even if they don’t manifest signs or symptoms of ringworm. Family members of infected individuals often become infected by ringworm.

What is the Incubation Period for Ringworm?

Since the first signs and symptoms of ringworm take time to appear and only usually appear after four to ten days from initial infection, the incubation period ranges from about four to fourteen days. There is a big possibility for ringworm to be contagious even before ringworm signs and symptoms becomes apparent. The signs and symptoms may vary depending on the body part that is infected by ringworm. The usual symptoms are itchy skin, ring-shaped rashes, scaly and cracking skin, hair loss, and thickening or discoloring of the nails.

It is also possible for ringworm infection to spread while it is still in its incubation period. That’s why it’s important to avoid being in contact with others during this stage.

When is Ringworm Not Contagious?

Doctors and other medical professionals recommend oral and topical treatment for two weeks. Ringworm infection signs or symptoms may start to subside within the first 48 hours of topical treatment. You are no longer contagious during this time as long as you are able to seek treatment at the first signs and symptoms of ringworm. A mild ringworm infection is easy to treat and contain. There is no need to worry about ringworm being contagious during and after treatment. It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks for a ringworm infection to clear up.

Ringworm actually stops to be contagious about 12 to 48 hours after the beginning of treatment. However, if treatment is not completed or interrupted, there is a possibility for ringworm to reoccur. Despite not being contagious anymore, an infected individual is still required to continue the treatment for two weeks to a month even if the signs and symptoms have already subsided. It is more difficult to treat ringworm of the infection has already spread to other parts of the body and the infection has become severe.


An infected person can still transfer the ringworm infection until the rashes are completely eliminated from all the parts of the body that are affected by the infection. Ringworm is therefore contagious during treatment but it is not contagious afterward. However, it’s still better to wait for a couple of days after the sores and rashes disappear before going back to your normal activities to ensure that the treatment has totally and effectively eliminated the dermatophytes.

Because ringworm is a highly contagious skin infection, it is important to always keep yourself and your surroundings clean. Also, try to avoid being in contact with people or animals that are infected by ringworm because you could easily contract the infection. Avoid sharing personal objects such as towels, clothes, combs, hairbrushes, gym mats, and other items with people infected by ringworm. Always wash your hands and your body with water and soap in the event that you come into contact with a person or an animal that is infected by ringworm. Ringworm is not easy to contain because it can survive and thrive for longer periods of time in public areas like swimming pools, shower areas, locker rooms, gyms, hats, combs, etc.

Treatment for ringworm should be followed through religiously otherwise, the skin infection has a big possibility of recurrence. This means that ringworm is going to be contagious once again and it can spread to other body parts and to other people. This is why following your treatment is of utmost importance.