Advice Column, Health

Mommy, I have an itch ‘down there’!

  • Maritza Breitenbach
  • Category Advice Column, Health

Springtime is wonderful, bringing glorious, sunny days filled with fun! It is time to pack away warm, winter clothes, to put on a swimming costume and run through the sprinklers. Unfortunately, it is also during this time when it is more likely for our little girls to complain about an ‘itch down there’. Reassuringly, it is not uncommon; young girls also experience irritation and discomfort in the vaginal region. Take a little private time out, and if necessary, it is advisable to have a look and establish exactly what the problem is.

The most common complaints include:

  • a painful vagina with no redness or itchiness
  • a sore, itchy vagina which looks slightly red with no discharge a sore, itchy vagina with a whitish discharge or white spots (tiny blisters) sitting in the folds and/or around the outside of the vagina
  • discomfort when urinating.

The most likely causes include:

  • sweat and friction
  • vaginal infections
  • an allergic reaction
  • a foreign object in the vagina
  • sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is beyond the scope of this article. If you suspect that it may be a possibility, you are welcome to contact the author on maritza6@vodamail.co.za a to get detailed information on the signs and symptoms of sexual molestation.

Sweat and friction: This is a problem that is more prevalent during spring- and summertime as children may be running around in swimming costumes – often all day long. They may also wear synthetic underwear and tight-fitting clothes, which is often also synthetic. Try to avoid the synthetics (costumes, undies and leggings) as these create friction and sweating which may cause vaginal soreness and induce secondary bacterial infection. Nappies too provide both warmth and moisture, which creates an environment that encourages fungal growth, and it is therefore best to change nappies frequently.

Vaginal infections: Vaginitis refers to the inflammation of the vagina, and it is usually caused by infections like thrush (yeast infection) and bacterial vaginosis. To identify thrush, look out for a white, cottage cheese-like discharge, itching and irritated skin. This can be remedied with an over-the-counter, anti-fungal clotrimazole cream, available from your chemist. Bacterial vaginosis on the other hand, causes itching and burning and the key identifier here is a fishy odour. In this case, it is sensible to take your little kitten to the doctor since she needs to be treated with antibiotics.

Allergic reactions: Allergies can be caused by perfumed soaps, bubble baths, coloured and perfumed toilet paper and nylon undies, and these are certainly worth avoiding.

Foreign objects: Lastly, young girls may insert anything from pieces of toilet paper to small toys, cheese curls or peas into their vaginas and these foreign objects can cause a very smelly and offensive discharge. Moms can gently try to remove the object with clean hands by letting her girly stand with one leg elevated, let’s say, on the toilet-seat. If this exercise is too traumatic for mother or child, it is best to consult a doctor.

Moms and Dads, here is our plan of action to help our precious little ones maintain a healthy vagina throughout summertime. If we follow these basic guidelines, we’ll keep our kittens untroubled and happily purring away:

  • Change your baby girl’s diapers regularly.
  • Avoid scented or coloured toilet paper, creams, and save bubble baths for special occasions.
  • Use warm water and an unscented, ‘soft’ soap regularly, such as Elizabeth Anne’s, to clean the genital area once a day.
  • Teach her to always wipe from front to back.
  • She must wear cotton panties (white is always best) and change her underwear daily.
  • Encourage her to wear loose-fitting clothing to allow this sensitive area to remain as cool and chafe-free as possible.
  • Do not let her play in her bathing costume all day long.
  • If she experiences recurring thrush, she should be taken to a doctor and have a swab taken from her vagina to determine the exact cause of the infection.
  • Be aware of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as they are quite common in little girls. If you suspect a UTI (which is normally accompanied by a burning pain in the vagina, or pain during urination) do consult your doctor.
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