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Vaginal Discharge: How to Care for Yourself

Vaginal discharge can be normal or might be a sign of irritation or an infection. Your vaginal discharge seems to be from irritation. Try these simple changes to make the irritation and vaginal discharge better.

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  • Use any ointment or cream as recommended by the health care provider.

  • Soak once or twice a day in a tub of warm water (without soap) for 10–15 minutes. Be sure to spread your legs so the water cleans the vaginal area.

  • To help ease irritation now and avoid it in the future, you should:

    • Sleep in a nightgown instead of pajamas so air can move freely around the vaginal area during sleep.

    • Wear white cotton underpants. When doing laundry, skip the fabric softener and rinse them twice to get all of the soap out before drying.

    • Wear loose-fitting clothes rather than tights and leggings.

    • Take off wet bathing suits as soon as possible.

    • Always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement (poop).

    • Not use douche.

    • Not use soap in the vaginal area.

    • Not use bubble bath.

    • Not sit in a tub with shampoo/conditioner/soap in the water.

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  • Your symptoms aren't better after following the health care provider's instructions.

  • You have vaginal discharge that changes or goes away and then comes back again.

  • It hurts to pee.

  • You have bleeding from the vagina that is not from a period.

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  • You have severe belly pain.

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What causes vaginal discharge? It is normal to have some vaginal discharge. Discharge that's heavier than usual; has an unusual color or smell; or happens with itching, soreness, bleeding, or pain when peeing might be caused by an infection or irritation. Common causes of this are:

  • soap, laundry detergents, and fabric softener

  • nylon underwear or very tight clothing

  • tampons

  • a piece of toilet paper that's stuck in the vagina

  • an infection (sometimes, an infection spread through sex)

Does the vaginal discharge need to be sent for testing? It depends on what the discharge is like, if there are other symptoms, and if a girl is sexually active. If the health care provider is concerned about an infection, the vaginal discharge is sent to the lab for testing.

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