In another “episode” of girls vulvas are different from women’s vulvas – let’s talk about vaginal yeast infections. For adult women, yeast infections are common, annoying, but often fairly easy to treat (IF the diagnosis is correct. But if you're self diagnosing, chances are fair that you’re wrong — I cover that HERE.)
If you think your preteen daughter has a vaginal yeast infection, chances are extremely high you are totally wrong. But I have some important advice.
FIRST, I want you to know a few things about girls’ vaginas & vulvas that I find myself saying on repeat in my office:
- Young girls have very sensitive vulvas (sensitive to bacteria, friction, soaps, fragrance, pee, poop, and discharge when it first starts).
- Their folds and crevices accumulate normal secretions and things that they are sensitive to.
- When irritated, the vulva becomes red and itchy.
BUT Red & Itchy does not equal yeast!
As moms, we want a quick fix to save her the misery and discomfort. AND it’s normal to think she must have a yeast infection because the symptoms can be the same.
FACT: Young girls don’t get vaginal yeast infections because before puberty, the pH of their vagina won’t allow yeast to grow. It’s related to the effect of estrogen on the vaginal microbiome, but don’t let me nerd out on that right now 🤓.
WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?
The most common cause is hygiene (or lack of), and the cure is simple (but sometimes tough to maintain).
If she’s between diapers and puberty, the easiest solution is eliminating all potential irritants. This list is long but the biggest problems are
- friction (tight clothes),
- fragrances (detergents),
- cleansers (bubble bath, soaps & shampoo), and
- dirt (poop 💩… hygiene is hard!)
If puberty has arrived in the form of breast buds, the most likely cause of vulvar irritation is her new vaginal discharge which can be irritating to her sensitive vulva especially before hair fills in to provide some protection.
SO WHAT WILL HELP?
She should wash with ONLY water – please, no baking soda, vinegar or other “anti-itch concoctions” – they can worsen her symptoms) and teach her to make sure those crevices and folds aren’t hanging on to any “stuff.”
If she’s using soap or shampoo in a tub, make sure her vulva gets a final, thorough, water-only rinse.
Next, make sure to pat dry or if she’s severely irritated, air dry or dry with a blow dryer set on warm or cool.
Finally, apply simple petroleum jelly (like Vaseline or Aquaphor) or a more soothing fragrance-free diaper rash ointment that contains zinc oxide (my favorite is A&D ointment with zinc – this is not a sponsored recommendation; I just really like the product for my patients). These are soothing barriers that will protect her sensitive skin from irritants.
If you’ve tried these things for a week or two and it’s not getting better, definitely talk with her provider. There are skin conditions (such as lichen sclerosis, psoriasis, eczema, and skin infections) that won’t respond and need different treatments.
Did you know Girlology has grade-by-grade playlists listing on-demand video and downloadable content to support her and you through the entire journey? Learn More