Q. I have had ringworm on my scalp for several years and cannot get rid of it no matter what I try. I wonder if there is a way to remedy this.
I also suffer from toenail fungus. Is there a reason why my body loves fungus so much? Could I add something to my diet to help?
A. Despite the name, ringworm is not a worm but a fungal infection. It produces itchy red patches that may blister and ooze. It is usually treated with antifungal medications, such as miconazole or clotrimazole. Doctors sometimes prescribe ketoconazole or itraconazole to be taken orally if the condition does not respond well to topical creams within about a month.
If you would like to try a natural treatment first, we offer you this tip from another reader:
“When I was a child in kindergarten 65 years ago, I got ringworm. My grandmother took a fresh black walnut, cut it and rubbed the juice from the green skin of the nut on the ringworm site. It went away in a few days.”
Another reader offered this:
“I’ve read a couple of questions about ringworm in your column and want to give you the benefit of my experience.
“I grew up in the country. As a teenager, I got ringworm on the back of my leg. Several things failed to cure it, and the affected area kept getting bigger.
“Then a neighbor told me to peel the green outer hull off a black walnut and rub the inside of the hull on the spot. She said it would stain my leg brown but kill the ringworm. I got a hull and rubbed it on. Within a day or two the problem began to resolve and a few days later it was completely gone. I know not everyone has a walnut tree, but this home remedy is worth a try.”
Sometimes fungus is an indication of elevated blood sugar. Try cutting back on sugar and starch to see if that helps. It may make no difference for the nail fungus, however. This can take a long time to treat because the nail has to grow out fungus-free. The doctor may prescribe a lacquer called ciclopirox (Penlac) to be applied daily. Many readers prefer less expensive home remedies for this condition.
Applying Vicks VapoRub to the affected nails, soaking the toes in Listerine or a dilute vinegar solution or a combination of the two, or swabbing the nails with hydrogen peroxide are all home remedies that have worked for some folks. You can learn about others in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care.