So Fresh & So Clean, Clean

This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year-old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.

It’s been a HOT summer so far! Even though I spend most of the year dreaming of summer and thinking about how fun, glorious and romantic it is (see my last post), now that we’re in the heat of it (literally), the romanticism is gone and I’m dealing with the downsides of summer: sunburns, bug bites, thighs sticking to chairs, sweat all over.

Along with these nuisances, all this heat, sweat, and lounging in wet swimsuits can sometimes lead to a bigger problem – reproductive infections. While these infections might not be pleasant, they are, like sunburns or sweaty armpits, just a natural part of life. Just like you take care of our skin with sunscreen, it’s important to know how to take care of your ladyparts. So, put away those feminine hygiene products and read on to learn more about how to stay fresh and clean these hot summer months.

I’ve heard you’re not supposed to wash your vagina. How are you supposed to keep it clean?

The vagina is amazing in so many ways, and one of those is that it cleans itself! (I wish my kitchen would do that). You don’t need to use any sprays, soaps or douches to clean it. In fact, using these products can actually do more harm than good. They can throw off the balance that’s naturally in the vagina and lead to an infection. To keep yourself clean, just use plain water and mild, unscented soap on the outer folds of the vulva (sorry to sound like your ObGyn, but I’m trying to be accurate here).

It’s also important to keep the vulva area dry. It helps to wear cotton underwear and loose clothes, and change out of sweaty gym clothes and wet swimsuits right away. When using the bathroom, make sure to wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from getting into the vagina or urethra.

How do I know if I have a Yeast Infection or BV? What’s the difference?

Yeast infections and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) are two very common types of vaginal infections. Most women naturally have yeast and bacteria in their vaginas, but sometimes the balance of gets thrown off and too much yeast or bacteria grows, resulting in either a yeast infection or BV.  There are many different causes of these infections, such as taking antibiotics, douching, changes in hormone levels or excess moisture from wet clothes.

Like other infections, yeast infections and BV can have symptoms like itching, unusual discharge, odor or burning with urination. The only way to know for sure if you have a vaginal infection is to get an exam from your health care provider or your local Planned Parenthood.

I keep getting UTIs. How can I prevent them?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be pretty painful, so it’s important to do what you can to prevent them.  A UTI is caused by bacteria getting into the urethra, which can happen during sex. When someone has a UTI, they may feel pain when they urinate or feel like they need to pee all the time.  Although UTIs can be cured easily with antibiotics from a health care provider, here are some simple steps to help prevent them:

  • Go to the bathroom before and after any sexual activity.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Don’t hold it when you need to pee.
  • Keep the vulva clean and dry.
  • Always wipe from front to back.

And, of course, if you keep getting UTIs, talk to your health care provider to see if there are other health issues that might be going on.

Do you have a question that you’d like to see answered in this column? Send them to me at [email protected].

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