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Vaginitis - self-care

Alternate Names

Vulvovaginitis - self-care

What Is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is a swelling or infection of the vulva and vagina. It may also be called vulvovaginitis.

Vaginitis is a common problem that can affect women and girls of all ages. It can be caused by:

  • Yeast, bacteria, viruses, and parasites
  • Bubble baths, soaps, vaginal contraceptives, feminine sprays, and perfumes
  • Menopause
  • Lack of cleanliness

Self-care for Vaginitis

Keep your genital area clean and dry when you have vaginitis.

  • Avoid soap and just rinse with water to clean yourself.
  • Soak in a warm, not hot, bath may help your symptoms. Dry thoroughly afterward.

Avoid douching. Many women feel cleaner when they douche, but it may actually worsen symptoms because it removes healthy bacteria that line the vagina. These bacteria help protect against infection.

Other tips are:

  • Avoid using hygiene sprays, fragrances, or powders in the genital area.
  • Use pads and not tampons while you have an infection.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels in good control.

Allow more air to reach your genital area. You can do this by:

  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes and not wearing panty hose
  • Wearing cotton underwear (rather than synthetic), or underwear that has a cotton lining in the crotch. Cotton increases air flow and decreases moisture buildup.
  • Not wearing underwear at night when you sleep.

Girls and women should also:

  • Know how to properly clean their genital area while bathing or showering.
  • Wipe properly after using the toilet -- always from front to back.
  • Wash thoroughly before and after using the bathroom.

Always practice safe sex, and use condoms to avoid catching or spreading infections.

Treating Yeast Infections

Creams or suppositories are used to treat yeast infections in the vagina. You can buy most of them without a prescription at drugstores, some grocery stores, and other stores.

Treating yourself at home is probably safe if:

  • You have had a yeast infection before and know the symptoms, but you have not had a lot of yeast infections in the past.
  • Your symptoms are mild and you do not have pelvic pain or a fever.
  • You are not pregnant.
  • It is not possible that you have another kind of infection from recent sexual contact.

Follow the directions that came with the medicine you are using.

  • Use the medicine for 3 - 7, days, depending on what kind you are using.
  • Do not stop using the medicine early if your symptoms go away before you have used it all.

Some medicine to treat yeast infections is used for only 1 day. If you do not get yeast infections often, a 1-day medicine might work for you.

Your health care provider can also prescribe a medicine called fluconazole. This medicine is a pill that you take once by mouth.

For more severe symptoms, you may need to use the yeast medicine for up to 14 days. For frequent yeast infections, your health care provider may suggest using medicine for yeast infections every week to prevent infections.

If you are taking antibiotics for another infection, eating yogurt with live cultures or taking Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements may help prevent a yeast infection.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms are not improving.
  • You have pelvic pain or a fever.

References

Merritt DF. Vulvovaginitis. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 543.

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome,endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23.


Review Date: 6/26/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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