Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Vaginal Itching or Irritation

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.

When to Call Your Doctor for Vaginal Itching or Irritation

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Could be from sexual abuse
  • Vaginal bleeding
 

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • 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
 

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.
    • After puberty, soap can be tolerated. 
  2. Baking Soda-Warm Water Soaks:
    • Soak for 20 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 small amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) to the genital area after soaks for 1 or 2 days.
  4. Avoid Soaps: Avoid bubble bath, soap and shampoo to the vulva because they are irritants. Only use warm water to cleanse the vulva or baby oil to remove secretions.
  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 "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

 Disclaimer

This information is not intended to 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: 8/1/2010

Last Revised: 9/23/2010 2:12:17 PM

Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.