Summer vaginal health: take care ‘down there’
Summer is a great time to catch up on medical exams and screenings. It’s also a season when more women seek treatment for vaginal infections and irritations.
Joye Fordham, MD, of Roper St. Francis Physician Partners OB/GYN, says summer activities are to blame.
“During the summer, women are more likely to be in bathing suits, swimming in chlorine pools, sitting in hot tubs or going to the beach,” says Dr. Fordham.
Sweating and staying in wet clothes, she says, can breed bacteria and lead to irritating vaginal infections. These include vaginosis, yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of vaginosis and yeast infections include vaginal itching and a burning sensation during urination or sex. Vaginosis and yeast infections can also lead to abnormal discharge.
Women with UTIs may feel an urgent need to pee or have pain or pressure in their lower back. UTIs can spread to other parts of a woman’s urinary system, including the kidneys.
Preventing vaginal infections
So, what can be done during the summer months to prevent vaginal infections?
“Come out of the wet clothes when you are not swimming,” says Dr. Fordham. “Have another dry bathing suit to change into for laying by the pool to stay cool.”
Some women, however, are just more likely to get vaginal infections.
“Women with diabetes tend to get yeast infections more often,” Dr. Fordham says. “Low-sugar diets can help. There are also over-the-counter probiotics geared toward vaginal .”
Probiotics that have shown some benefit to vaginal health are those containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus Gr-1. Check with your doctor if you have questions.
The biggest no-no for all women, according to Dr. Fordham: douching.
“We definitely tell patients that you do not need to douche for any reason,” says Dr. Fordham. “Your vagina produces good bacteria and when you douche, you are killing off the good things as well.”
Treating vaginal infections
If an infection does occur, it may require antibiotics. Dr. Fordham emphasizes that it is important to finish treatment, even if symptoms go away in a couple of days.
“If you tend to take antibiotics and don’t complete the course, there’s increased chances of antibiotic resistance,” Dr. Fordham says. “But also, if you don’t finish it, you are not going to treat yourself completely for that infection.”
Other summer irritations
Infections aside, women face other summer irritations in their vaginal area, including ingrown hairs.
“Patients who are more prone to ingrown hairs, or ‘razor bumps,’ should find another hair removal method,” says Dr. Fordham. “Instead of shaving, maybe get a wax or consider laser hair removal.”
She emphasizes that people who shave a lot should use a clean razor to prevent infections. Be sure to swap blades or get a new razor if you notice the blades have become dull or are rusted.
“Nothing’s wrong with grooming, but you should use a method that will prevent repeated ingrown hairs.”
To schedule an appointment with a Roper St. Francis doctor, call (843) 402-CARE (2273).