The word ring worm used for this disease does not correctly describe it. For, the disease is not caused by any worm but by a fungus which is a very minute form of vegetable plant life that grows on the skin.
The disease is more annoying than dangerous. It is serious only when the skin breaks up due to scratching and this leads to secondary infection.
Ringworm infection occurs in the scalp, the body, the feet and the nails. Ringworm of the scalp is most common in children, because of the lack of protective fatty acids in their scalps. These fatty acids are produced only in adult life and make the scalp of an adult person resistant to ringworm infection. The infection is more frequent in boys than in girls because boys have shorter hair and the scalp is relatively less protected.
The disease spreads on the skin and extends deeper into the hair roots and also up along the hair. The affected hair becomes dull and breaks off near its root. This leaves bald spots on the scalp which may assume a shabby appearance on account of the raised grey scales that protrude from the infected areas. The patches of ringworm on the body are usually round or oval with raised pink and scaly rings which show a clean space in the centre. The itching in the infected part helps to spread infection through the nails to other healthy parts of the body. If it is not treated for a long time, the infection becomes chronic and is, then, difficult to get rid of.
Ringworm of the body commonly affects the face and the neck. Ringworm of the feet, also known as the ‘athelete’s foot’ is more prevalent in summer. Infection is conveyed from one person to another through common usage of bath mats, bath tubs and swimming pools. The fungus, which causes the ringworm to grow easily in the warm and moist parts of the body, thrives between the toes. It finds a suitable place to live on account of perspiration in this region.
Ringworm is passed from an infected child to a healthy one through contact. It may also spread through the use of articles such as towels soap of the infected child. Sometimes, it is spread by infected domestic animals, such as dogs and cats.
The use of suppressive lotions or ointments for the treatment of ringworm may give temporaory relief but does not eradicate the root of the disease. The best way to deal with this disease is to cleanse the blood stream and the body.
To begin with, the child should be placed on an all-fruit diet for two or three days. He should take fresh juicy fruits, such as apple,orange, papaya, pineapple and pomegranate, during this period. This will help eliminate morbid matter from the body and lead to substantial improvement, a warm-water enema may be administered during this period to cleanse the bowels, if possible.
Fruits, salt-free, raw or steamed vegetables accompanied with whole wheat chappatis may be taken after the all-fruit diet. After a few days, curd and milk may be added to the diet. The child- patient may thereafter gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet according to his age. The emphasis should be on whole grain cereals, raw or lightly-cooked vegetables and fresh fruits. This diet may be supplemented with vegetable oils, honey and yeast.
The child should avoid tea, coffee, and all condiments and highly flavoured dishes, as well as sugar, white flour products, denatured cereals and tinned or bottled foods.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of ringworm. One of the most effective of these is the use of mustard (raye) seeds. A paste made from these should be applied extgernally over the areas affected with ringworm. Before application of this paste, the skin should be washed thoroughly with hot water.
The use of new papaya has also been found beneficial in the treatment of ringworm. A few slice of this unripe fruit should be rubbed on the ringworm patches twice daily. A paste made from dry seeds of papaya can also be applied beneficially on these patches.
The use of castor (arandi) oil, is valuable in case of ringworm of the head. This oil should be rubbed liberally on the affected parts. Noticeable improvement will take place within two or three days.
Raw vegetable juices, especially carrot juice in combination with spinach juice, have proved beneficial in the treatment of ringworm. The formula proportion considered helpful in this combination are carrot juice 150 ml. and spinach 100 ml. to make 250 ml. of combined juice.
The child-patient should get as much fresh air as possible. He should drink plenty of water and bathe twice daily. The skin with the exception of part affected with ringworm, should be vigorously rubbed with the palms of the hands before taking a bath.
Coconut oil may be applied to the portions affected with rignworm. It will help the skin to stay soft. Sunbathing is also beneficial and should be resorted to early in the morning. A light mud pack applied over the sites of the ringworm is also helpful. The pack should be applied for half an hour twice daily.