Vulvovaginitis is inflammation or irritation of the vagina and vulva (the opening of the vagina). Mild vulvovaginitis is a very common problem in young girls. It will affect most girls at some stage. Some girls will have vulvovaginitis many times. As girls begin to develop breasts, their vulvovaginitis usually gets better.
In most girls vulvovaginitis is not a serious problem and it will usually improve with simple steps. In most cases no treatment or tests are needed.
Signs and Symptoms
Girls with vulvovaginitis often have:
- Itching in the vaginal area
- Some discharge from the vagina
- Redness of the skin between the labia majora (outside lips of the vagina)
- Burning or stinging when they pass urine
Treatment and Care
The mainstay of treatment is protecting the vulval skin and avoiding irritants
- Avoid fabric conditioners and biological washing powders. You may want to wash her underwear separately in a non-biological washing powder/gel.
- If your daughter goes swimming encourage her to have a shower immediately after to wash off the chlorine. Some girls also find it helpful to use a moisturiser eg Hydromol just before swimming to protect the vulval skin.
General care of vulval skin
- Washing with only water causes dry skin and makes itching worse. Use a soap substitute eg Hydromol, Epaderm or Diprobase to clean the vulval area. This will stop the skin getting dry and irritated. This is safe to use regularly. Avoid soaps, shower gel, scrubs, bubble baths, baby wipes in the vulval area. Try not to shampoo hair in the bath as the shampoo in the bath water can be irritant.
- It is better to shower rather than bathe. Try not to clean the vulval area more than once a day as overcleaning can aggravate vulval symptoms.
- Avoid using sponges or flannels to wash the vulva. These can irritate the skin. Gently dab the vulval area dry with a soft towel.
- Encourage your daughter to wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. If possible avoid close-fitting clothes such as tights and leggings.
- Encourage her to sleep without underwear.
Use of moisturisers to protect the skin
- Moisturisers eg Hydromol, Epaderm or Diprobase can be used as moisturisers throughout the day.
- Using one of these moisturisers every day can help relieve symptoms. Even when she does not have symptoms, using a moisturiser will protect the skin and can prevent flare-ups.
- It is important to find the moisturiser that suits her best. If the first one does not work well, it is well worth trying another one.
Helping your daughter stay safe
As your daughter has a genital problem the doctor may need to examine her. This can be a good opportunity for parents to talk with their daughters about staying safe. The NSPCC offer an excellent on-line resource for this at nspcc.org.uk/pants.