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Vulvovaginitis is a condition that causes irritation (such as itching or redness) and/or discharge in the area of the vulva and/or the vagina.
There can be many causes of pediatric vulvovaginitis. Girls are more susceptible to skin irritation because their hormone levels are much lower than adults’. This means the vulvar and vaginal skin is very thin and sensitive.
Common causes of pediatric vulvovagintis are allergic reaction, contact dermatitis and certain types of bacteria. There are also other causes and sometimes several different causes at once.
Pediatric vulvovaginitis can occur in females of any age, including newborns, toddlers and children. It’s a condition that occurs in girls who are pre-menarchal, which means they have not yet had a menstrual period.
Download information on pediatric vulvovaginitis en Español (pdf).
Vulvovaginitis is evaluated first by talking with a doctor at Children’s Hospital Colorado about your child/teen’s health history and symptoms. After carefully reviewing the history and symptoms, the doctor will perform a physical exam, which includes looking at the external vulva and rectal area. This examination is not painful and does not include an internal pelvic exam.
There is no specific test that is done to evaluate this condition. In certain circumstances, a vaginal culture may be done, but it is usually not needed.
The good news is that most girls will get better after making the following changes:
Wear only plain white, cotton underpants. Wash them with a tiny amount of unscented detergent and rinse twice to remove any remaining irritants from the detergent. Avoid fabric softeners or any extra cleaning or “freshening” products on underwear and swimsuits.
Wear a nightgown for sleeping. It’s OK to sleep without undies. Avoid one-piece sleeper pajamas. Very loose, soft PJ pants or loose boxer shorts are another option.
Avoid tights, one-piece leotards, tight jeans or leggings. Choose skirts and looser fitting pants. Find clothes that are comfy, allow air to circulate, and don’t cause extra rubbing or pressure.
Take a bath every day. (We may recommend this more than once a day until your child is feeling better.) Make sure that the bathtub is rinsed free of bleach, cleaning products, or any leftover soap or bubble bath.
Soak in clean, warm water. No soap, vinegar or baking soda is needed. Plain, warm water is best to avoid irritation.
Don’t scrub the vulva with a washcloth. Just allow the water to gently wash over and soak the area.
Only use a mild soap (like Dove) when and where it is really needed, like on skin with visible dirt. Use soap at the end of a bath and then wash it completely off. Soap is usually not needed in the genital area.
Gently pat dry the genital area.
Don’t use bubble bath or perfumed soap. When your daughter is the right age, tell her not to use feminine sprays, douches, powders, or other scented feminine products.
If the vulvar area is swollen, tender or itchy, use a cool compress for a few minutes. Vaseline or A&D diaper ointment can also be used to help protect the skin.
Talk about, and remind your child, how to wipe after a bowel movement. Wiping from the front to the back is important to keep the bacteria away from the vulva.
After swimming, change into dry clothes right away.
Using the self-care tips above, symptoms usually get better in one to two weeks.
If your child/teen’s condition does not improve, or if you have new symptoms to report, please call Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology at 720-777-2667. We will want to see you.
At Children’s Colorado, we provide expert care for the diagnosis, treatment and management of health issues of the female reproductive organs in children and teens.
Our board-certified pediatric and adolescent gynecologists have specialized training in the reproductive health concerns of girls of all ages. And depending on your child/teen’s needs and treatment plan, we provide both outpatient and inpatient surgical services.
Doctors at Children’s Colorado understand that topics involving female reproductive organs can be stressful to address, which is why we’re extra-sensitive to the mental and emotional needs of our patients and their families. We create a friendly environment for dialogue and encourage our patients to ask questions and talk openly with their care team.