Oh my, oh my, oh my. Who would have thought I'd write a post sharing information about tinnea (commonly known as ringworm) on a blog about crafting? Not I.
But after having gone through months of treating two of my kids, I wanted to share some general information I found out about going through this... information that was very difficult to find on general medical websites regarding tinnea... information that can only be gleaned through experience and piecing things together. Always speak with your doctor or veterinarian regarding your specific situation.
First off, when getting guinea pigs, I had no idea they are commonly carriers of tinnea. I had never heard of this before, nor that it was a concern to be worried about. We always encouraged our kids to practice good hygene: after playing with their guinea pigs, they were instructed to promptly wash their hands with soap and water.
However, even with this level of hygiene commitment, one of our kids got an infection on her finger. We think this was partially caused by wintertime dry skin allowing the fungus to get a foothold. Initially, we thought the problem was just some persistent dry skin (it did not look like ringworm). Then we thought it was eczema. Speaking with our pediatrician over the phone, we described it and were told we could safely treat the eczema with some hydrocortizone we had on hand.
If this had been eczema, that wouldn't have been a problem. However, because it was not, it actually caused the fungus to grow (steroids can do that with a fungal infection). By that point, a topical antifungal wasn't enough. After seeing a specialist, it was properly identified as a fungal infection and we were given an oral antifungal (along with the topical) to treat it.
At that point, we were told that cats and guinea pigs can be carriers. We've had our indoor cat for years without problems, so didn't think that could be it. Though the guinea pigs were new to our family, we didn't suspect them because of our high level of hygiene. However, once the oral medication was started, we took all out pets to the vet to have them tested. The cat came back negative. The guinea pigs, positive.
We had to start a 6 week treatment consisting of lime/sulphur baths (at the vet) every 5 days.
But then a second child came down with the infection. This time, after much thought, we realized it was likely given to her by using an unsterilized nail file. We had no idea going into this how careful we had to be with this contagious infection. Neither the pediatrician or the skin specialist gave us special warnings about how to avoid spreading the illness.
It was only towards the end of the vet visits for the guinea pigs that we were told that the fungus can stay on plastic surfaces, and that even a good soap and water wash may not get rid of it. It was then that we realized our pigs may have gotten their infection from the used guinea pig cage and pigloo we had. As instructed, we washed all guinea pig cage items with bleach to kill off the fungus. We also replaced a wood hut (that the pigs love to gnaw on) with a new one (since washing that with bleach would not work).
The treatment at the vet is soon to be complete and we will be taking the pigs in to have them tested again to see if they are infected. We will wait a few more weeks and test them again.
However, this was a very expensive lesson for us to learn. I hope by sharing this here, anyone else working through this problem may avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced.
To sum up:
- Guinea pigs can be carriers of ringworm (aka tinnea)
- Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after playing with your guinea pigs
- If you suspect your guinea pigs to be carriers (and they can be asymptomatic carriers - our pigs were. Neither of them showed the typical "bald spots" that would indicate an infection), get them tested at your vet
- If your pigs do test positive, be certain to sterilize your cage and supplies with a bleach solution (ask your vet for specifics on how to do this).
- If they're getting treated, be sure to clean their cage after their vet visit but before they are placed back in the cage (to prevent re-infection).
- Supposedly, this fungus can reside in carpets. We have carpeting and don't know yet if and how we would clean it properly. Something to think about. I don't have a solution here.
Hopefully someone out there finds this information useful. Regardless of my weeks of searching the internet for information about guinea pigs spreading ringworm to kids, I had found nothing.