As an OB-GYN, I have seen many cases of yeast infections throughout my career. Studies show that over 75% of women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime. But did you know that yeast infections can be worse in the summer? Let’s discuss yeast infections and the risks associated with them. Most importantly, how to prevent them.

What causes a yeast infection? 

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a type of fungus called candida. Candida can live in the vagina without causing any problems. The issue is when the balance of bacteria and yeast is disrupted. At this point, candida can multiply, leading to a yeast infection. Symptoms of a yeast infection include itching, burning, and redness in the vulvar area. Painful intercourse and a thick, white, odorless discharge can also be signs. 

What are risk factors for a yeast infection? 

Certain risk factors make you more susceptible to yeast infections. These risk factors include pregnancy, diabetes, and a weak immune system. Using certain antibiotics and hormonal birth control can also put you at higher risk. Try to avoid wearing tight clothing or wet swimwear for a prolonged period of time. This contributes to being at higher risk. 

How to prevent them

  • Wear breathable cotton underwear. Did you know that in the summer, women are more susceptible to yeast infections? This is because of the increase of heat and moisture in the vulvar area. It’s essential to wear breathable cotton underwear to reduce heat and moisture. It’s also important to change out of wet swimwear immediately after swimming. And if possible, avoid wearing tight clothing. Wearing looser clothing allows for airflow and helps keep the vulvar area dry.
  • Maintain Good Vaginal Hygiene. Maintaining good vaginal hygiene is crucial in preventing yeast infections. It’s important to avoid using scented soaps, bubble baths, and perfumes in the vulvar area. These products can disrupt the natural pH balance in the vagina and lead to a yeast infection. Instead, use mild, unscented soap and water to clean the vulvar area.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet. Another way to prevent yeast infections is to eat a healthy diet. Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of infection. It’s important to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Probiotics in foods like yogurt can help maintain healthy bacteria in the vagina.

Always consult with your doctor first

If you think you have a yeast infection, see your OB-GYN. They will do a pelvic exam, take a sample of the discharge, and look at it under a microscope. Your doc can also send a sample to the lab. Just know that self-diagnosis is frequently inaccurate. In studies, only 11-34% of women were correct when diagnosing themselves. Always go to the OB if you are concerned! If yeast infections are a recurring issue (if you have 4 or more yeast infections a year), ask about long-term suppression. Your doc may consider weekly fluconazole for up to 6 months.

Yeast infections can be a nuisance, especially in the summertime. By knowing the risk factors and taking preventative measures, you can reduce your chances of getting one. If you do experience symptoms, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. They can determine if it’s a yeast infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Remember to maintain good hygiene, wear breathable clothing, and eat a healthy diet to reduce the chance of getting one. Stay healthy, and enjoy your summer!