Swimming and Yeast Infections…
Summer is almost here and it is the time of year to get back in the pool! Many of us feel that we are not swimsuit ready based on our winter weight gain. Looking outside of your physique, is your vagina ready for swimming?! Those of you who are already prone to candida or yeast infections may notice an increase in frequency around the time of summer or swimming. What does swimming have to do with yeast infections?
Your vagina prefers to be acidic (pH of 3.8-4.5) to help with fighting off bacteria and infection. However, your vagina helps to maintain this pH balance with “good bacteria” called lactobacillus. Chlorine is a non-selective chemical found in most pools and will kill both good and bad bacteria creating an imbalance of the pH of your vagina. This same pH imbalance can occur when you take antibiotics.
When lactobacillus is killed off, the pH of the vagina becomes more basic. Yeast or candida thrives in a basic environment. In addition, yeast prefers a humid climate and will proliferate in situations such as wet bathing suits being left on for an extended period of time. Some steps that you can take to help reduce the risk of yeast infections with swimming include:
1.) Do not leave a wet bathing suit on for an extended period of time
2.) Gently dry off the genital region with a towel after being in the pool
3.) Rinse chlorine off genital region after swimming (pouring water from a water bottle while sitting over the toilet can be helpful for this if there is no shower)
4.) Change into cotton underwear quickly after swimming
These similar recommendations can be used if you have any vulvar itching or irritation that may be unrelated to a yeast infection. Chlorine can be irritating to the skin, especially if you have a sensitive vulva. So the above recommendations can also assist with either issue. There is no reason to fully avoid swimming (unless there are other comorbidities and your MD says otherwise), but just be prepared and take good care of your vulva and vagina this summer!