Vaginal Yeast Infections (cont.)
The following actions can help prevent a vaginal yeast infection.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat dairy products. Some women think that eating foods with lactobacillus organisms, such as yogurt or acidophilus milk, will help prevent yeast infections. So far there is no evidence for this connection. But eating foods that contain lactobacillus can be part of a healthy diet.
- Control diabetes. Good control of blood sugar levels decreases the risk of yeast infections anywhere on your body.
- Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can change the normal balance of vaginal organisms, allowing excess growth of yeast.
If you practice good genital hygiene, you can also help prevent infection.
- Keep your vaginal area clean. Use mild, unscented soap and water. Rinse well.
- After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid spreading yeast or bacteria from your anus to the vagina or urinary tract.
- Wear underwear that helps keep your genital area dry and doesn't hold in warmth and moisture. One good choice is cotton underwear.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing, such as panty hose, and tight-fitting jeans. These may increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
- Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. Wearing a wet swimsuit for many hours may keep your genital area warm and moist.
- Change pads or tampons often.
- Don't douche or use deodorant tampons or feminine sprays, powders, or perfumes. These items can change the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.
Do not self-treat a vaginal yeast infection if you:
- Are pregnant.
- Are not sure your symptoms are caused by a vaginal yeast infection. If you have never been diagnosed with a vaginal yeast infection, see your doctor before treating it with a nonprescription antifungal cream. Sometimes women think they have a vaginal yeast infection when symptoms are caused by a different condition, such as bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which would require a medical exam.
- Are having a recurrent infection.
- Vaginal Yeast Infection: Should I Treat It Myself?
Using nonprescription medicine
When using a nonprescription vaginal medicine for a vaginal yeast infection, follow the directions on the package insert, as well as these guidelines:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat dairy products. Eating right helps your body fight off infections. Although there is no clear connection between eating foods with lactobacillus organisms, such as yogurt or acidophilus milk, and reducing symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, these foods can be part of a healthy diet.
- Use pads instead of tampons while you are using nonprescription vaginal medicines. Tampons can absorb the medicine.
- Avoid using soap when cleaning the vaginal area—rinse with water only.
- If sexual intercourse is painful, avoid it. Otherwise, use a water-soluble lubricating jelly (such as K-Y Jelly) to reduce irritation. The oil in antifungal creams or suppositories can weaken latex. This means condoms and diaphragms may break, and you may not be protected from STI or pregnancy.
- If the genital area is swollen or painful, sitting in warm water (in a bathtub or sitz bath, not a hot tub) may help. Or instead, you may try putting a cool, damp cloth on the area. Do not rub to try to relieve itching.
Report your symptoms to your doctor if:
- You are not sure that you have a yeast infection.
- Your self-treatment is not working after one complete course of therapy.
Things to consider
The risk of self-treatment is that your symptoms may be caused by a type of vaginal infection other than a yeast infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you have pelvic pain or fever, get an evaluation by a doctor.
If you are pregnant, it is important to be evaluated for vaginal symptoms. Some vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, may increase your risk of complications during pregnancy.
If you have risk factors for an STI, discuss your symptoms with your doctor before using a nonprescription medicine. Risk factors for an STI include having sex without a condom or having more than one sex partner.
Talk to your doctor before you try unproven home treatment methods, such as applying tea tree oil in the vagina or taking garlic supplements. These treatments have not been well studied. They may even cause other problems, such as allergic reactions, in some women.2 Douching is not recommended, because it can make some infections worse.