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Female children sometimes complain of intense itching, burning pain or irritation in the genital area. Parents may notice that their young girls are constantly scratching or rubbing their bottoms and vaginal area and may sometimes cry out of pain especially when they urinate. Upon inspection of the area, you may see that the genitals are inflamed and reddish. Greenish, yellowish or brownish, foul-smelling discharge may also be found in the child's underwear. Although these signs and symptoms of vulvovaginitis may be very distressing, the cause of the child's condition is usually not serious and can easily be relieved.

Common Causes of Vulvovaginitis

Children suffer from vaginal irritation and inflammation because of various reasons including:

  • Poor hygiene, which is often related to improper washing practices after using the toilet. Bacteria from the anus may contaminate the vaginal area when they are not able to wipe themselves properly (front-to-back), causing bacterial infection.

  • Bacterial imbalance in the area, which sometimes occurs due to intake of antibiotics or introduction of bacteria from contaminated hands. Although the genital area normally has friendly microorganisms living there, overgrowth of harmful microbes may cause infection and inflammation.

  • Irritating chemicals, which can come from bath soaps, laundry detergents, nylon pants and underwear, etc, which can cause skin irritation.

  • Pinworms or threadworms, which are intestinal parasites that lay eggs in the anus, causing itchiness. When the child scratches her bottom she may spread the eggs to the genital area, causing intense itching, irritation and pain. They may not be able to sleep well because of these symptoms. Sometimes, tiny worms can be seen in the anal area when they lay their eggs.

  • Foreign objects, such as toilet paper, small pieces of crayon or eraser, can be lodged in the vagina, causing irritation and possible foul-smelling or smelly vaginal discharge.

What to Do

It is best to consult a doctor to get proper diagnosis and treatment. Whether it is a bacterial infection, a pinworm infection or a simple case of chemical-induced irritation, a doctor can prescribe appropriate treatment and give you advice on how to relieve your child's symptoms.

At home, you can reduce irritation and inflammation by:

  • Washing the child's genital area with clean water, without the use of soap.

  • Avoiding bubble baths, harsh soaps and shampoo.

  • Drying the genital area with a soft, clean towel after bathing or washing.

  • Having the child sit over a basin with warm water (a Sitz bath) for about 15 minutes twice daily to relieve itchiness and pain.

  • Teaching the child to wipe herself properly from front-to-back.

  • Avoiding the use of nylon underwear or pants, tight-fitting clothes. Instead, let her use cotton panties and loose skirts.

  • Avoiding long periods of wearing wet bathing suits. After swimming, wash her and let her wear clean, dry clothes.

  • Instructing her to keep her knees apart while urinating to prevent urine from going into the vagina.

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