Summer can be pretty freaking awesome — lounging on a beach, picnicking by a lake, romancing in a hot tub. Then, there are times when warm weather and seasonal activities can lead to not-so-fun moments for your ladybits. Here are six instances when you might experience issues down there, fixes for when you do, and ways to potentially avoid them altogether.
It’s hot outside
Warm temperatures may lead you to sweat (or sweat more) in areas you may not typically, like your pelvic region — this is especially the case if you engage in outdoor activities. When this happens, the bacteria in your vagina can be thrown off balance, which may lead to vaginal infections like yeast and bacterial vaginosis. To avoid excessive moisture downstairs, and the potential for infection, opt to wear materials like cotton and wicking polyester that either absorb or wick away moisture, says Angela Chaudhari, MD, associate residency director and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.
In the event you experience changes in discharge, vaginal itching or irritation, painful intercourse or urination, or light bleeding or spotting, which are all signs you might have an infection, pay a visit to your OBGYN, says Leena Nathan, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UCLA Health in Westlake Village, California. A prescription or over-the-counter treatment should do the trick, she says.
You lounge in tight or wet clothing
Similarly, when you wear tight or wet clothing — or worse, both — for an extended period, you predispose yourself to infection, or at the very least irritation, says Dr. Nathan. Because clothing on the tighter side can be restrictive and trap moisture, and dampness can lead to vaginal infection, wearing one or the other puts you at risk. To ensure your ladybits remain dry, and avoid possible irritation and infection, limit the amount of time you spend in constrictive clothing and damp bottoms, says Dr. Chaudhari.
You’re exposed to chlorinated water
Chlorine kills bacteria in pools and hot tubs. Unfortunately, that also means it bares the potential to rid your vagina of bacteria, too, says Dr. Chaudhari. As mentioned earlier, changes to your vaginal flora places you at risk for infection. To maintain a healthy balance, Dr. Nathan recommends a daily consumption of lactobacillus, a probiotic proven to lower your risk of vaginal infection. You might also want to purchase an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer like Replens, which may help combat other potential effects of chlorine such as vaginal irritation, she says.
Sand gets into your bathing suit
If sand does make its way into your bottoms, it’s unlikely that it’ll end up in your vagina, says Dr. Nathan. But you want to be very careful to ensure it doesn’t. Even if it does find its way into your vagina, it’s likely it won’t lead to an infection, assures Dr. Chaudhari. Its coarseness, however, can cause excessive irritation, so you want to make sure to shower or bathe as soon as something feels off to avoid associated discomfort.
You skip sunblock
This doesn’t just apply to summer months: Skipping out on sunblock any time of the year can lead to sunburn, or even place you at risk for skin cancer, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). Sunburn is especially a concern for areas that often don’t see the light of day, such as your bikini line, whereas melanoma can affect areas rarely, if at all, exposed, like your vulva, says Dr. Chaudhari. So, it’s best to slather exposed skin (even skin that isn’t, for extra precaution) with an SPF of at least 30, per the MRF. Dr. Nathan also recommends using a mineral sunscreen to avoid chemicals that can potentially irritate your sensitive skin downstairs.
Already have sunburn down there? Apply pure aloe vera to soothe discomfort, says Dr. Nathan. Also be on the lookout for any new moles on or around your vulva and be sure to visit your OBGYN about those that pose health concerns, says Dr. Chaudhari.
You get a mosquito bite on your vagina
This is also a rare occurrence, given that your ladybits are usually covered, says Dr. Chaudhari. In the event you’re one of the lucky, rare individuals (congratulations?), an over-the-counter anti-itch cream is fine to use in small dosages on your vulva and labia, she says. If symptoms persist and worsen — say, you notice the area become more inflamed — she recommends you schedule a visit with your OBGYN to avoid the occurrence of a possible skin infection that may then require local or oral antibiotics.