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Vulvovaginitis in Children


What is vulvovaginitis?

Vulvovaginitis is an infection of the vulva (outer genitals) and vagina. The most common cause is bacteria, a virus, fungus, or pinworms. Vulvovaginitis is common in girls who have not reached puberty. Before puberty, girls do not have pubic hair to prevent germs from entering the vagina. Abnormal vaginal development can also cause vulvovaginitis. Signs and symptoms include itching, burning, redness, swelling, or rash on your child's vulva or in her vagina. There may also be a discharge, bleeding, and an odor.

What increases my child's risk for vulvovaginitis?

  • Poor cleaning and hand washing after she urinates or has a bowel movement
  • Bubble baths or use of scented soap
  • Tight fitting clothing
  • Obesity
  • Material such as toilet paper or soap trapped in the vagina

How is vulvovaginitis diagnosed and treated?

Your child's healthcare provider may examine her genital area. If there is a discharge, a sample will be sent to a lab to be tested. Your child's urine may also be tested. She may need to see a pediatric gynecologist if the symptoms continue. Treatment depends on the cause. She may need an antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral medicine. Her healthcare provider may also suggest a low-dose steroid cream to stop the itching.

What can I do to help my child manage her symptoms?

  • Have your child soak in clean, warm bath water or a sitz bath. Your child should do this for 15 minutes, at least 2 times each day. This will help clean the area and ease her symptoms. Do not add any bubble bath or shampoo to the water. Pat the area dry. Do not rub.
  • Do not let your child use scented, deodorant, or antibacterial soaps, washes, or powders. These change the natural pH of your child's vagina and can cause irritation.
  • Apply barriers to the area. Examples include diaper rash ointment or petroleum jelly. This will decrease pain when she urinates.
  • Have your child eat a variety of healthy foods to prevent constipation. Constipation can make symptoms worse. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if your child needs to be on a special diet.

How can vulvovaginitis be prevented?

Have your child do the following:

  • Bathe daily. Use a mild soap and pat the area dry or let it air dry.
  • Clean the vaginal area properly. Wipe from front to back after she urinates or has a bowel movement. Wash the area after a bowel movement, if necessary. Pat the area dry after cleaning.
  • Wear cotton underwear during the day. Cotton allows air to flow to the area and pulls away moisture. Do not wear any underwear at night.
  • Do not wear tight pants, swim suits, or leotards for long periods of time. Tight clothes can rub and irritate her genital area.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your child's risk increases if she is overweight. Ask her healthcare provider how much she should weigh. Ask him to help create a weight loss plan if she is overweight.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's vagina has a bloody discharge.
  • Your child's vagina begins to bleed and it is not her monthly period.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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