As we look forward to the hot summer days, most women are worried about their summer body but is your bathing suit or the heat going to put you at risk for a vaginal infection or UTI? So the research is conflicting, and there is no definitive answer to that question, but let’s break it down.
Summer means heat, humidity, and wet bathing suits. Extended contact of the vagina with a warm, moist environment can potentially cause an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. Friction from a bathing suit or chemicals such as chlorine can cause irritation and disrupt the pH balance of the vagina. You are more likely to become dehydrated from sweating, so if you don’t drink enough water, there is an increased risk of UTIs.
Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of summer vaginal and bladder woes:
- Gently dry the genital area with a towel or wipes without vigorous rubbing
- Use a mild, pH-balanced cleanser to clean the genital area
- Don’t wear bathing suits for prolonged periods of time
- Choose a bathing suit that is moisture-wicking or quick dry
- Change out of your bathing suit when finished swimming and put on clean, dry cotton underwear
- Do not use vaginal douching or scented sprays, powders, or soaps. There is no benefit and can be harmful by promoting an imbalance of vaginal flora
- Avoid tight clothing to let the vagina breath and dry out
- When you use the bathroom, wipe front to back to reduce the risk of exposure of bacteria from the gut entering the bladder or vagina
Other things to consider are your diet. High sugar foods and drinks, including alcohol, can increase your chance of infection. Sugar is acidic and can disturb the pH balance of the vagina and the bladder, making it a hospitable environment for bacteria to grow. Eating a well-balanced diet and curbing the alcohol may help. If you have medical problems like diabetes, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is essential to decrease your risk of infections.
Pregnancy also puts you at risk for urinary tract infections. Your immune system is weaker than usual. You are easily dehydrated, and a growing uterus makes it more difficult to completely empty your bladder. Pregnant women are at increased risk of a bladder or worse a kidney infection. Perimenopausal and menopausal women have a lower level of lactobacilli, which is needed to maintain a healthy vaginal flora to fight infections. Studies show that older women with lower levels of lactobacilli in their vagina were at increased risk of vaginal atrophy or thinning of the walls of the vagina. This can lead to burning on urination, bleeding after intercourse, painful sexual intercourse, and vaginal discharge, itching, or burning sensations. Studies are exploring the use of probiotics to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast responsible for vaginal infections and UTIs and maintain a healthy vagina.
So, get your vagina ready for the summer!
• Drink at least 64oz of water every day to stay hydrated and flush out your bladder.
• Take probiotics to promote healthy vaginal bacteria to prevent infections.