Hygiene for girls: Prevent vaginitis, vulvovaginitis

Vaginitis and vulvovaginitis are the most common gynecological conditions for girls. Good hygiene practices can help prevent both. Learn about hygiene for girls.

Hygiene for girls can be a thorny topic for parents. Teaching preteens about good hygiene isn’t easy, but it’s important. Poor hygiene can change the natural balance of the vagina and lead to conditions such as vaginitis or vulvovaginitis. What should kids do to make sure they’re maintaining good care of their vaginal health?

Bathroom hygiene can keep them healthy

The vagina has a natural microbiome, maintained by bacteria such as lactobacilli that maintains the natural pH level of the vagina and keeps the number of harmful bacteria at a minimum. However, when a vagina’s pH level isn’t in the correct range, bacteria can build up and cause infections, everything from vulvovaginitis to bacterial vaginosis and more.

Since the vagina is close to the anus, bacteria can spread easily. One of the most common ways that bacteria causes vulvovaginitis is not wiping after going to the bathroom the right way.

“To promote vaginal hygiene, carefully wipe front to back— not back to front,” said Lucy Koroma, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton Children’s Gynecology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “The bacteria in the rectum and anus are normal for the GI tract, but inappropriate for the vagina’s natural microbiome. That’s why wiping correctly and drying yourself is so important.”

Bathing hygiene for vaginal health

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Bathing and grooming habits are important at any age, but especially as puberty sets in and the body experiences changes.

“Helping your child understand how to bathe and groom themselves is important,” Lucy said. “The changes that come with puberty can be awkward, but understanding and having good hygiene practices in place can help to instill confidence and keep them healthy.”

In addition to good bathing practices, there are some tips to help make sure your child avoids conditions such as vulvovaginitis:

  • Don’t use scented bath products, laundry soap or scented or colored toilet paper if it causes skin irritation.
  • Don’t use scented pads or tampons, vaginal deodorants or scented feminine hygiene products. If your child is concerned about the scent of their genital area, you and your child can speak with a pediatric gynecologist to determine if it’s normal.
  • Avoid tight-fitting pants and suggest your child wear cotton underwear, as the fabric is more breathable and is less likely to trap moisture. Conditions can develop with prolonged access to moisture in the area, such as when wearing damp underwear, wet bathing suit or clothes.
  • Teach your child good menstruation hygiene regarding changing pads or tampons.

“ Adolescents should have their first gynecological exam between the ages of 13 and 15,” Lucy said. “They won’t receive a pelvic exam or Pap smear during that visit, as they do not need to start cervical cancer screening until age 21. Seeing a pediatric gynecologist can help the child and parent with these tough puberty topics.”