Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria normally found in the vagina. It often causes a grey-coloured discharge. Although more common in sexually active women, bacterial vaginosis is not passed on through sexual activity.…
Vulvovaginitis in girls
What is vulvovaginitis?
Vulvovaginitis describes inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) around the lower genital tract, specifically the vagina and vulva. It can be caused by infection with yeasts, parasites, bacteria or viruses, or it can also arise due to physical or chemical irritation. Some chemical substances that can contribute to vulvovaginitis include soaps, lotions and perfumes.
Vulvovaginitis can be caused by any of a large variety of infections and irritations.
- Bacteria in stools infecting the genital tract;
- Viral infections;
- Parasite infections (such as trichomoniasis or threadworm), and;
- Yeast infections (candidiasis) - rare in pre-pubescent girls unless they have type 1 diabetes, have recently undergone antibiotic treatment or have a weak immune system.
Chemical substances that can lead to vulvovaginitis in girls include:
- Shower gels;
- Fabric softeners and laundry detergents, and;
- Chlorinated water (as in swimming pools).
Factors that can cause vulvovaginitis through physical irritation include:
- Playing in the sand, which can lead to 'sandbox' vulvovaginitis;
- Irritation due to tight and/or wet underwear or bathers;
- Small foreign objects, and;
- Sexual abuse.
Risk factors for vulvovaginitis in girls include:
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of vulvovaginitis include:
Methods for diagnosis
Your doctor will diagnose vulvovaginitis by physical examination. A sample of vaginal discharge may also be taken for analysis.
Types of treatment
Treatment for vulvovaginitis depends on the cause of the inflammation. For bacterial infection, antibiotics are the preferred treatment; for yeast infections, antifungal cream; for chemical irritations, recognising the source of the irritation and avoiding it, and so forth.
To treat the irritation, it may be helpful to run a warm bath for the child, or apply soothing creams that contain ingredients such as paraffin or castor oil.
Vulvovaginitis normally goes away if it is treated correctly.
Ongoing itching and discomfort can be emotionally distressing, particularly in younger girls. Scratching the itch can break the skin, which increases the chances of further infections.
You can lower the chance of vulvovaginitis in your child by:
- Reducing the use of soaps and gels, and choosing oil-based products.
- Not shampooing hair in the bath;
- Using plain, unperfumed toilet paper;
- Avoiding tight clothes and underwear;
- Preferring cotton underwear to synthetic fabrics, and;
- Changing nappies regularly in babies and younger girls.