4 tips from Yale OB/GYN Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.
With spring upon us and summer on the horizon, increasing temperatures, and time spent outside swimming, cycling, walking and running can all affect vaginal health. Sweat and moisture around the vulva, the outside skin surrounding the vagina, can create the perfect environment for an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria, throwing off the vagina’s natural pH balance, and in turn, cause irritation, itch, odor and overall discomfort.
Yeast and bacteria are naturally present in the vaginal environment and need to remain in balance to avoid infection. Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast. It’s very common — in fact, nearly 75% of adult women have had at least one yeast infection in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can be more common in the hot summer months. The good news is that you can take control of your vaginal health by simply understanding the early signs and symptoms and how to treat them.
Below are 4 tips to keep in mind as temperatures start to heat up:
1. Ditch sweaty workout attire.
Leggings and biker shorts, while comfortable to work out in, can cause discomfort after exercising. Tight, nonbreathable clothing with fabrics like nylon or spandex, especially for long periods of time, can trap moisture down there and ultimately alter the vagina’s delicate pH. Try wearing only breathable, cotton underwear and shorts to allow a more comfortable workout and maintain a healthy vaginal flora. RepHresh Pro-B, which can be found at the drug or grocery store, contains strains of vaginal probiotic lactobacilli that specifically balance yeast and bacteria to help maintain vaginal flora daily in a normal, healthy range.
2. Be wary of scented tampons.
Menstrual blood elevates vaginal pH and causes odor, and while tampons are great to have on hand when swimming and enjoying other outdoor activities, it’s important to stay away from scented tampons. The vulvar and vaginal tissue are the most sensitive in the body to any irritants, and scented tampons contain ingredients to which many women may be allergic or have some sort of skin sensitivity. Instead of masking odor with scented tampons, make sure to use tampons without any irritants. RepHresh Gel can be used to eliminate odor and maintain a healthy pH balance.
3. Don’t sit around in a wet swimsuit.
Like workout attire, swimsuits are also known for trapping moisture down there and can cause friction, itch and irritation. Tight swimsuits and irritants like sand can also cause rashes and skin abrasions. RepHresh Cooling Relief Spray provides immediate relief with its soothing formula of aloe and chamomile and the cooling sensation of hydrocortisone.
4. More breathable ZZZZZ’s please!
It’s best to go commando and sleep with no panties or pajamas, especially if you have a yeast infection or are prone to them as discharge and sweat can create a breeding ground for bad bacteria that can cause infection. Alternatively, switch to loose-fitting cotton underwear or pajama bottoms to allow for breathing room. Note that cotton absorbs moisture, as opposed to silk or lace.
Common vaginal symptoms are treatable. Just remember, if something doesn’t seem normal, see your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment to keep infections, irritation and discomfort away.
Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.