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Vaginal Itching or Irritation  
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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

Definition
  • Genital area burning or itching in young girls
  • No pain or burning with urination

Cause

  • Main cause in young girls: a soap irritation of the vulva or outer vagina (soap vulvitis) from bubble bath, shampoo or other soap
  • Soap vulvitis occurs exclusively prior to puberty.
  • Occasionally, it is due to poor hygiene or back to front wiping.
  • If the vagina becomes secondarily infected, a vaginal discharge will occur.

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Could be from sexual abuse
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Fever is present
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Over age 10 (reason: soap vulvitis is unusual)
  • Vaginal irritation persists on treatment over 2 days
  • Vaginal itching is a recurrent problem
Parent Care at Home If
  • Probable soap vulvitis and you don't think your child needs to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR SOAP VULVITIS

  1. Reassurance:
    • Soap (especially bubble bath) is the most common cause of genital itching in young girls.
    • The vulva is very sensitive to the drying effect of soap.
    • Only cleanse the genital area with warm water.
    • After puberty, soap can be tolerated.
  2. Baking Soda-Warm Water Soaks:  
    • Soak for 10 minutes to remove irritants and to promote healing.
    • Add 2 ounces (60 ml) baking soda per tub of warm water (Reason: Baking soda is better than vinegar for girls not into puberty).
    • During soaks, be sure she spreads her legs and allows the water to cleanse the genital area.
    • Repeat baking soda soaks treatment 2 times per day for 2 days.
  3. Steroid Cream:  Apply a tiny amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) to the genital area after soaks for 1 or 2 days. Avoid continued use.
  4. Avoid Soaps:
    • Avoid bubble bath, soap and shampoo to the genital area because they are irritants.
    • Only use warm water to cleanse the vulva.
    • Baby oil can be used to remove any dried secretions from the labia.
  5. Expected Course: If the symptoms are due to soap vulvitis, they should all clear within 1 to 2 days with proper treatment.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Irritation persists on treatment over 48 hours
    • Vaginal discharge or bleeding occurs
    • Passing urine becomes painful
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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