What Is Vulvovaginitis?

Vulvovaginitis is inflammation and irritation of the genital area. This may occur in females of any age, but it most often occurs in girls who have not started puberty.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vulvovaginitis?

Signs and symptoms of vulvovaginitis include:

  • Redness of the vulva
  • Vulvar and/or vaginal itching
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • Stinging or burning sensations
  • Painful urination

What Are the Causes of Vulvovaginitis?

There are several potential causes of vulvovaginitis. Young girls are more susceptible to it because they have less estrogen, which makes the vulvar skin thinner and sensitive.

Common causes include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Infections (bacterial, fungal, pinworms)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Other skin conditions

Yeast is actually an uncommon cause of vulvovaginitis in girls who are toilet trained. Sometimes several causes may present at once.

How Is Vulvovaginitis Treated?

Typically, an internal exam is not necessary. The child’s health care provider may perform a culture which is done by gently touching the genitalia and vagina with a very small swab which is sent to the lab. The lab will evaluate if any specific bacteria or yeast grow. If treatment is necessary, topical ointments and or an oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Petroleum jelly or diaper ointment can help on the vulva if the area is irritated, red or itchy.

The symptoms may improve without treatment and focusing on self-care. The symptoms also can improve at puberty.

Girls can reduce the risk of having vulvovaginitis by wearing white cotton underwear and sleeping without underwear. Wearing loose clothing, avoiding clothes that cause extra rubbing or pressure can help reduce the risks. Using mild unscented soap and soaking daily in clean warm water is helpful. Girls should avoid scrubbing the vulva and rinse soap completely off and gently pat the vulva dry. Do not use bubble baths. Girls should avoid all irritants like soaps, lotions, detergents or fabric softeners with colors and fragrance.

Girls should urinate with legs spaced wide apart and wipe front to back after using the toilet. It is important to treat constipation and diarrhea because these conditions can make vulvovaginitis worse.