Dear Dr Ombeva
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My two sons have had two bad attacks of ringworm in quick succession. They are on medication. I was told I may need to treat their clothes as well. How do I remove ringworm fungus that may be on their clothes and other fabrics?
I can understand your frustration. Ringworm is a fungus that grows on skin and sheds spores, which are spread from person to person. It can affect the entire body when it occurs in severe disseminated form.
Ringworm infections can be frustrating and troubling. The first step is to ensure the children are on an effective treatment regimen. The best option now is fluconazole, taken once weekly for 6-8 weeks.
Ringworm spores can be difficult to remove from surfaces or fabrics that they have contaminated. Different types of clothes and fabrics require different approaches on disinfection. If your clothes are labelled “dry clean only” then that will have to do, though you could wash them since some dry clean only fabrics can be safely be washed when needed.
For machine-dried clothes, expose the items to the heat of the dryer for longer. This increases effectiveness of killing the fungus. You could also sun dry them, but do not increase the amount of exposure time as sunlight can bleach some fabric dyes.
For washable clothes, you require antifungal spray, white vinegar, laundry detergent and borax. If possible, you may have to spray the affected piece with antifungal spray. You could as well dilute the white vinegar with an equal amount of water in a spray bottle. Then allow the spray to sit on the clothing for a few hours to penetrate the spores and kill them. After that, you can launder the clothing items as usual.
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Washing clothes in hot water and detergent without anti-fungal spray should still kill the spores, though adding an extra antifungal like borax is advisable. Follow instructions on the insert for how to use borax.
If you’re using a washing machine, allow the washing cycle to run for a few minutes to disperse the soap throughout the water and clothing, after which you stop the washing machine and allow the items to soak. The detergent will break down the spores. After that you continue the cycle, rinse severally and dry as normal.
When the clothes have dried (after machine or hand wash) try to use as hot an iron as possible. All fabrics, clothes, bed sheets and linen that came into contact with the affected skin must be disinfected to avoid recurrence and reinfection.
Dr Ombeva Malande is a specialist paediatrician. Reach him on [email protected]