What can I do to treat vaginal thrush?
The first thing to do is to have it correctly diagnosed. If you are one of the lucky few who’ve never had vaginal thrush and the symptoms are unfamiliar to you, then it’s important you have a correct diagnosis from your health care professional. If you are familiar with the symptoms, then a chat with your pharmacist is necessary. There are a range of thrush specific treatments; including pessaries, creams and ointments. They all contain an anti-fungal component as their active ingredient. If you have been on a course of treatment and have not improved, then it may be time to change to another treatment option which contains a different active compound.
Some women find they are combating vaginal thrush all the time. In these cases oral treatment with medication, rather than topical creams can make a real difference. Tablets help to rid the body of the yeast organism via the gut and can be very effective. However, oral treatment for thrush is not recommended during pregnancy, which means the treatment of choice is generally pessaries/cream or a combination of both.
Recurrent thrush can be caused by reinfection from the bowel. This is why it’s so important to be very careful about using toilet paper correctly.
Remember – if you have vaginal thrush
- Wipe from the front to the back.
- Wash and dry your hands very carefully after going to the bathroom.
- Don’t use cheap or harsh toilet paper; this just adds to the irritation.
- If it really stings when you are weeing, then pour warm water over your vulva at the same time -this helps to neutralise the acidity of the urine.
- Filling a small bath with warm water and sitting in this to wee can help to minimise the burning sensation.
- Drink plenty of water which will help to dilute your urine and reduce burning and scalding when you wee.
Tips for combating vaginal thrush
- Only wear cotton underpants. Read the fabric label and avoid wearing any pants which include nylon, polyester, modal, bamboo or Lycra.
- Be diligent about how you launder your underwear. Hot water, detergent and double rinsing can be beneficial. Avoid using the dryer and hang underwear in the sunlight. A final rinse with an anti-fungal fabric conditioner can be helpful.
- Wear your “big” undies; tight underpants don’t allow for adequate air flow which is really helpful for getting rid of thrush.
- Avoid wearing tight jeans, leggings, tights and pantyhose. Air ventilation helps to clear thrush infections.
- Speak with your doctor about whether your partner needs to be treated. Men can be asymptomatic but still have thrush. Thrush can flare up again after intercourse because of re infection.
- Aim to keep your vaginal and vulval area cool and not become overheated until the thrush has cleared.
- Avoid eating too much bread and bread products. Yeast in foods can contribute to systemic yeast problems.
- Limit your intake of processed foods and sugar. These can contribute to thrush infections.
- Only take antibiotics if they are absolutely necessary. Ask your prescribing doctor if there is an option of taking an antibiotic which is less likely to increase your chances of getting thrush.
- Shower at least twice a day, change your underwear twice a day and your towels every couple of days.
- Avoid using any harsh soaps or body washes, bubble baths, and scrubs in your vaginal area, especially those which contain strong perfumes.
- Eat some natural yoghurt every day, and look for one which contains natural acidophilus and bifidus cultures.
- Avoid having sex until the thrush has cleared up. Although there’s no real danger to you, your baby or your partner, sex will cause more skin and mucousal irritation and your partner is at risk of getting it as well.
- You may find it soothing to dissolve some bicarbonate of soda or vinegar in the bath water and sit in this for a soak.
Treatment for vaginal thrush
- Pessaries – these are compressed, oval shaped tablets which contain a concentrated dose of anti-fungal agent. They usually come with an applicator so they can be inserted high into the vagina. They come in either a one or six course pack. During pregnancy, the six day/night pack is usually recommended.
- Vaginal creams which come with an applicator. The cream inserted high into the vagina, most commonly at night so the active ingredient is in longer contact with the mucousal surface.
- An external skin cream which contains the same ingredients as the vaginal cream, but in a different concentration. Using this on its own will not treat the vaginal thrush. NB You may find that wearing a panty liner when you’re having treatment for thrush is helpful in avoiding underwear staining.
When would my partner need to be treated for thrush?
If he develops any itching, redness, swelling or irritation on his penis or the surrounding skin, then he may have thrush as well. The current recommendation is that male partners do not require treatment unless they are showing symptoms. The treatment is essentially the same; anti fungal creams and ointments.