Pediatric Vulvovaginitis: Tips for Getting & Staying Better

What causes vulvar irritation and/or vaginal discharge?

Pediatric vulvovaginitis is usually caused by several different factors. Young girls have very thin and fragile skin in this area. This is because of their low levels of the female hormone estrogen. This means their skin may be very sensitive to soaps, bacteria or anything else that might cause irritation.

Symptoms of pediatric vulvovaginitis

A girl’s vulva or vagina may feel irritated, swollen, tender or itchy due to pediatric vulvovaginitis, or she may experience uncomfortable vaginal discharge.

Self-care tips for getting better

After starting the self-care tips given below, most girls experiencing vulvar irritation or vaginal discharge will get better in one to two weeks.  

  • Wear only plain white, cotton underwear. Wash them with only a tiny amount of unscented detergent and rinse twice to remove any remaining irritants from the detergent. Avoid fabric softeners or any extra cleaning or “freshening” products on underwear and swimsuits.
  • Wear a nightgown for sleeping, and it’s OK to sleep without undies at all. Avoid one-piece sleeper pajamas. Very loose, soft PJ pants or loose boxer shorts are another option.
  • Avoid tights, one-piece leotards, tight jeans or leggings. Choose skirts and looser fitting pants. Find clothes that are comfy, allow air to circulate and don’t cause extra rubbing or pressure.
  • Take a bath every day. (Your doctor may recommend taking a bath more than once a day until the symptoms go away.)  Make sure that the bathtub is rinsed free of any bleach or cleaning products and any leftover soap or bubble bath.
    • Soak in clean, warm water. No soap, vinegar or baking soda is needed. Plain, warm water is best to avoid irritation.
    • Don’t scrub the vulva with a washcloth. Just allow the water to gently wash over and soak the area.
    • Only use a mild soap (like Dove) when and where it is really needed like on skin with visible dirt. Use the soap at the end of the bath and then wash it completely off. Soap is usually NOT needed in the genital area.
    • Gently pat dry the genital area.
    • Don’t use bubble baths or perfumed soap. When your daughter is the right age, tell her there is never a reason to use feminine sprays, douches, powders, or other scented feminine products.
    • Try using a cool compress for just a few minutes if the vulvar area is swollen, tender or itchy. Vaseline or A&D diaper ointment can also be used to help protect the skin.
    • Wipe correctly after bowel movements. Wiping from the front to the back is important to keep the bacteria away from the vulva.
    • After swimming or getting sweaty, change into dry clothes right away.

What to do if symptoms do not improve or new symptoms occur

Call Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology at 720-777-2667. We will want to see you again in our office and talk about other ways to address your concerns.