My young daughter has a yeast infection. What’s the best treatment, and what precautions should she take — particularly during wet bathing suit season — to prevent it from happening again?
Yeast infections are one of the most commonly occurring infections in girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75 percent of adult women have had at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. A yeast infection is generally triggered by certain environmental conditions, and in rare cases through sexual contact.
There are many different species of yeast; however, the most common culprit in human infection is candida albicans. Candida are fungi that live naturally on the skin’s surface and in the gastrointestinal tract. This typically causes no harm; however, when candida become overabundant in the vagina, they cause a yeast infection. The medical term for this is vulvovaginal candidiasis.
Common symptoms of a yeast infection include:
* Genital itchiness.
* Irritation, redness, swelling and/or pain of the vulva (the outer lips of the vagina).
*A thick, white or yellow, curdlike vaginal discharge.
Occasionally a child will also complain of pain with urination. This is because the urine stream making contact with irritated vulvar skin may hurt.
Individuals at high risk for developing a yeast infection, and especially recurrent yeast infections, are those with poor immune function due to chronic disease and children with diabetes. Other factors that can increase your chance of developing a yeast infection include taking oral antibiotics or oral contraceptive pills with high levels of estrogen. Some older girls may find that they are more prone to yeast infections just prior to their menstrual cycle. This phenomenon is the result of hormonal changes that occur right before their period.
Yeast thrives in a warm, moist environment. Wearing a wet bathing suit on a warm summer day can be the perfect medium for yeast to over-multiply and for a child to develop an infection. To prevent this, have your daughter change out of a wet suit into dry, loose-fitting cotton underwear immediately after swimming. On a daily basis, encourage her to wear moisture-wicking underwear. Avoid fabrics that are synthetic, which tend to hold moisture close to the skin. Also, understand that there is no need to clean the vagina with anything other than water and mild soap. In fact, using harsh soaps, douches, sprays or cleansers marketed as feminine hygiene products can disrupt the fragile balance of microorganisms that thrive within the vagina and lead to the development of a yeast infection.
If you are concerned that your daughter may have a yeast infection, seek medical treatment immediately. Although yeast infections tend not to be serious, they are certainly quite uncomfortable. Never self-diagnose and never choose an over-the-counter preparation for treatment unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider. Over-the-counter remedies are formulated for adults. Children require medication that is specific to their age and to their weight.
Sometimes a yeast infection can be diagnosed by a medical exam alone and sometimes a lab test, such as a swab of the vagina, is required. Once your child is formally diagnosed with a yeast infection there are many treatment options available. Treatment options may include any combination of the following:
* Oral antifungal medication.
* Vaginal suppository (medicine placed inside the vagina).
* External cream for application directly to irritated vulvar skin.
Your provider will work with you to choose a treatment regime that is personalized to your daughter’s needs.
With bathing suit season upon us, now is the time to prepare and speak with your daughter. Fortunately, by thinking ahead and making a few simple adjustments, you can decrease the odds of a yeast infection disrupting her summer fun.
Sarah R. Kiser, CPNP-PC, is a PNP with nearly a decade of experience in pediatric nursing. She serves as the exclusive PNP at the Dana Hall School, a school-based health center in Massachusetts. Read her blog: www.kidshealthwithsarah.com.