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Vaginitis: Caring for Your Child

Vaginitis is redness, soreness, or swelling in and around the vagina. The vulva (the area around the opening of the vagina) also might be irritated. A girl with vaginitis may feel itching, burning, or pain. Sometimes there is also a discharge (fluid) coming from the vagina.

Vaginitis is common in girls of all ages. It usually gets better with simple home care.

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  • If your doctor recommended an ointment or medicine, use as directed.

  • Soaking in a tub may help your daughter feel better. To soak, your daughter can:

    • Sit in a tub of plain (not soapy) warm water every day. This can be done as many times as needed each day.

    • Soak for 10 to 15 minutes with her legs spread so the water cleans the vaginal area.

  • When bathing, your daughter should: 

    • Not use bubble bath.

    • Use soap and shampoo at the end of the bath. This way she will not be sitting in water with soap or shampoo in it. 

    • Not wash the vaginal area with soap.

    • Rinse the vaginal area off with plain water at the end of the shower or bath.

    • Pat the vaginal area dry with a clean towel when finished bathing.

  • If the vulva or vaginal area is sore or swollen, your daughter may find it soothing to put a cool compress on the area for a few minutes every few hours, as needed.

  • To help the irritation get better and prevent vaginitis in the future, girls can:

    • Avoid tight clothing such as tights, leotards, and leggings.

    • Avoid sitting in a wet swimsuit for long periods of time. 

    • Wash underpants with a mild detergent without fabric softener, rinse twice to get all of the soap out, and dry without dryer sheets.

  • Your daughter should:

    • Sleep in a nightgown or loose pajama pants without underpants so air can move freely around the vaginal area during sleep.

    • Wear white cotton underpants.

    • Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement.

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Your daughter:

  • doesn't feel better after following the doctor's directions

  • feels better, but then the symptoms of vaginitis come back

  • has pain when peeing

  • has bloody, brown, green, or yellow discharge

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  • Your daughter has severe belly pain.

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What causes vaginitis? In young girls, the lining of the vagina and the skin of the vulva are very thin. Soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener, tight clothing, wet diapers or swimsuits, sand, and germs can bother this area, leading to vaginitis.

Vaginitis also can happen when girls don't clean themselves well after having a bowel movement (pooping). Getting a little piece of toilet paper stuck in the vagina or forgetting to remove a tampon also can lead to vaginitis.

Sexually active girls may get vaginitis from latex condoms or spermicide (a chemical that prevents pregnancy by killing sperm). Vaginitis can sometimes be a sign of a yeast infections or a sexually transmitted infection (STI, also called sexually transmitted disease or STD).

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