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Vaginitis - self-care

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 (chemicals)
  • Menopause
  • Not washing well

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 bath -- not a hot one.
  • Dry thoroughly afterward. Pat the area dry, don't rub.

Avoid douching. Douching may worsen vaginitis symptoms because it removes healthy bacteria that line the vagina. These bacteria help protect against infection.

  • 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 under control.

Allow more air to reach your genital area.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes and not panty hose.
  • Wear cotton underwear (rather than synthetic), or underwear that has a cotton lining in the crotch. Cotton increases air flow and decreases moisture buildup.
  • DO NOT wear 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 drug stores, 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 to 7 days, depending on what kind of medicine 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. If you have yeast infections often, your 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 provider if:

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

Alternative Names

Vulvovaginitis - self-care; Yeast infections - vaginitis

References

Gardella C, Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 23.

Hoefgen HR, Merritt DF. Vulvovaginitis. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 549.

Review Date 4/19/2018

Updated by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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