How Does Summer Vacation Affect Your Vaginal Health?
Summer may be winding down to an end, but some of us want this feeling to last forever, soaking up the warm weather, beach vacations, sand, sun, saltwater, and …vaginal infections?! Now that’s a damper on all the fun, but the reality is when the summer heat comes it brings along one of the biggest culprits of infections – humidity. Sweat has a pH of 7, while the vagina’s pH is much lower, from 3.8 to 4.5. Lots of sweating can affect the internal and external pH of the vagina, leading to an increase in yeast and vaginitis.
One of main enemies of your summer plans is getting a yeast infection, not only because women are more prone to sweating than men are, but they tend to perspire everywhere—including the skin around the vulva. Remember a yeast infection is fungal, and fungal infections stereotypically like to grow in areas that are moist and dark. Common symptoms include a red, itchy, or irritated vulva, often accompanied by a yeasty odor and a discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Another common vaginal infection to look out for is bacterial vaginosis (BV), with symptoms that include a fishy odor and a grayish discharge.
So how do you avoid these common vaginal infections during the summer? Follow along for some tips on how to maintain a healthy vagina not only during steamy summer nights, but for a year-long good vibe.
Tips for Avoiding Vaginal Infections
1. Keep Things Breathable
We recommend wearing white, cotton underwear, especially in the summer. This fabric is breathable, and it has no dyes that could irritate you. If you work out, you should change immediately after, because staying in moist clothing can cause issues.
2. Invest in a Good Probiotic
Just like your gut, your vagina is home to many different strains of bacteria, some healthy, some not. When those get out of balance, you can become prone to vaginal infections. One way to ensure maintaining that balance of your vaginal microbiome is through a diet full of healthy probiotic sources like yogurt or fermented foods, like sauerkraut or kimchi.
3. Avoid Douching
Whatever you do, avoid douches or any other scented, fragranced vaginal hygiene products. The vagina is self-cleaning, and while the vulva (the outer part where the labia and the clitoris are) needs very minimal cleaning, this should only be done with mild, gentle, unscented vaginal soap or wash. Such douching and other scented feminine hygiene products can throw off the pH of the vagina.
4. Clean Up Your Diet
Avoiding sugar is also an excellent way to stop a yeast infection in its tracks. When you've had too much sugar and your body can't get rid of it, it can end up in your blood, running throughout your body—including to the vagina, where there's a significant amount of blood vessels. Yeast feeds on sugar, so when you cut out the sugar, you starve the yeast.
5. Wetter is Better
Make sure you’re using a high-quality lubricant when you are sexually active, as it can really help alleviate issues with dryness or mild irritation. If you do get an infection, your doctor will probably tell you not to have sex at all until it clears up. We know summer sex is hard to pass up, but listen to your doctor on this one – get healthy first.
Can Swimming Give You a Yeast Infection?
If you’re worried about yeast infections, think about taking care of your vagina after a swim the way you think about applying sunscreen before one. We tend to keep bathing suits on too long after swimming, and the same goes for hot tubs and jacuzzis. Take off swimming suits, shower, and get into some dry clothing after a swim. It’s also important to be mindful of where you’re swimming, especially if it's in a lake with more bacteria and microorganisms floating around. You never know what’s in the water and what could be disruptive to your vaginal flora. Tread carefully.