Common Vagina Problems In Kids That Every Parent Should Know
When it comes to little girls and their privates, a lot of issues can pop up that confuse the hell out of parents. Is it a fungal infection? UTI? Vulvovaginitis? What even is that? Dr Sam Hay talks us through some of the most common worries.
And looking after our daughters ‘down there’ is where the mums get to feel a little more comfortable, whilst the dads tend to feel useless and steer well clear. But whilst it’s daunting for many parents, the good news is, there’s not much you need to panic about.
Common Vagina Problems In Kids
By far and away the most common vagina problems in kids, is when things get red and irritated. Many girls seem oblivious, but some are constantly squirming or scratching, whilst a few also describe a sting when they wee. This inflammation and irritation of the vagina (think all the internal bits) and the vulva (think all the outside bits) is called vulvovaginitis.
Mild vulvovaginitis is ridiculously common, coming and going seemingly constantly for many girls up till puberty. For the majority, it’s really nothing to panic about, and can be managed quickly with some super simple home remedies.
Vulvovaginitis presents in many ways:
- Little hands itching or playing constantly in their nappies or pants.
- Redness of the skin between the labia majora. These are the outer ‘lips’ or ‘folds’, and when they are gently separated the skin can look red and irritated. When you’re changing nappies, gently have a look at this area and gauge how it usually looks – it should be a nice and healthy pink colour.
- Burning and stinging when they wee. Whilst this burn and sting can be a tell-tale sign of a urinary tract infection, hot wee passing over red irritated skin hurts! So if your little one complains, it’s the first thing you need to check.
- Vaginal discharge. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, which means even babies and young girls will have some normal physiological discharge. With vulvovaginitis this may increase to be more moderate.
For young girls, the lining of the vagina and vulva is thin and delicate. This means when things are damp and a bit dirty down there, the lining is easily irritated.
Many factors play a part:
- Girls easily leak a little wee when they’re distracted or excited, which means the area is always damp.
- They can be a little haphazard with their wiping meaning things don’t get cleaned up well enough. They can also wipe forwards rather than back, which brings stool forward into the vaginal area. Leaving the area too messy and dirty for too long irritates the lining, and promotes infections easily.
- Girls LOVE bubble baths. Bubbles, and too much soap for that matter, really irritate the delicate lining.
- Tight clothing and being overweight will increase sweat and dampness.
The greatest majority of vulvovaginitis can be settled down with some gentle cleansing, avoidance of bubble baths and harsh soaps, and copious latherings of nappy creams.
Now it’s really important to be gentle down there because if you’re too vigorous with wiping and cleaning, it will only irritate the area further. The nappy creams act as a barrier, protecting and moisturising the fragile irritated lining, whilst keeping the wee, dampness, and dirt away.
Fast fact about cleaning ‘down there’: You should never use soaps inside the vagina. Never. They’re way too harsh. If soap is used in the general area it needs to be rinsed off thoroughly.
What else could be going on?
If you’ve tried all the basics and there’s still irritation down there, or, you’re faced with other troublesome symptoms, then you’ll need a trip to your doctor to delve deeper into what’s going on.
The dreaded threadworms can sometimes cause or worsen itching in the vaginal region. Discuss this as an option with your doctor, especially if they’re scratching a lot at night – you just might need to de-worm your daughter (and the whole family!)
Little spots of blood can occur with any mild irritation, but persisting bleeding or a deep red colour to the lining could indicate a bacterial infection has set in. Your doctor will need to prescribe some antibiotics.
Urinary tract infections
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are not the best communicators are they? So any UTI may only present with rattiness, a fever, or smelly wee. But as kids learn how to express themselves better they’ll describe the classic burning and stinging of their wee. It’s important to treat any UTI with antibiotics early as they can turn into more serious kidney infections.
Any vulvovaginitis can become complicated with fungal infections, and can sometimes be a challenge to determine. Good news is that anti-fungal creams are safe to use, and your doctor can recommend when to use them.
Labial fusion is when the soft ‘inner lips/folds’ (the labia minora) are joined together. Most cases are present from birth, but they can occasionally fuse together when the healing process goes a bit over the top after an infection.
It’s actually one of the common vagina problems in kids, and causes absolutely no concern for the greatest majority. Treatment is rarely necessary with most fusions separating by puberty. For persisting cases, especially if there are issues when periods start, a small surgery might be needed to divide the fusion.
So high fives to all parents if you manage to settle your daughter’s first bout of vulvovaginitis irritation quickly, but whilst you’ve won the battle, you’re still likely to see things come and go for many months or years to come.
So the absolute mainstay of treatment needs to be educating your little girls, and reminding them constantly to keep up the good work. And please reassure them it’s nothing to worry about.
If you’re worried about your child’s health, please speak to your local health practitioner for advice.
This article was first published in KidSpot and republished on theAsianparent with permission.
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