Vulvovaginitis in Girls: What You Need to Know

Vulvovaginitis in girls is the irritation of the external genitalia. It's a common but benign pathology. We'll tell you everything you need to know.
Vulvovaginitis in Girls: What You Need to Know

Last update: 27 May, 2021

Vulvovaginitis is the inflammation of the external genitalia in girls. Especially between three and six years of age, it’s a very frequent and annoying illness. There are certain measures we can take to prevent it from appearing. Therefore, today, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about vulvovaginitis in girls.

What is vulvovaginitis in girls?

Vulvovaginitis is the inflammation of the external genitalia in girls. These, as the name implies, are the vulva and vagina. Therefore, vulvovaginitis is the combined inflammation of these two parts. It’s a very frequent benign illness in children. Normally, they’re mild cases that are resolved without any long-term effects.

In most cases, the cause of this inflammation is non-specific. A combination of several factors together is responsible for the appearance of this illness. The fact that its incidence is higher between three and six years of age also has an anatomical and physiological explanation.

A toddler sitting on the toilet.

What’s the cause?

As we’ve already mentioned, in most cases, establishing a single cause isn’t possible. It’s the combination of several factors that end up producing this irritation. Some of these are:

Poor development

At this age, the labia majora of girls are still underdeveloped. In addition, there’s no hair on the vulva. Both are protective factors against irritants and bacteria in the vulva and vagina. So, their absence makes the external genitalia more exposed.

Low hormone levels

Estrogens, one of the main female sex hormones, are present at very low levels at this age. One of the functions of estrogen is to keep the pH of the vulva and vagina acidic, which would protect from attack by many microorganisms. With such low levels of this hormone, the pH of the genitals is more alkaline, making them more susceptible.

Inadequate hygiene

This period coincides with the beginning of girls’ toilet training. Often, little girls don’t yet know how to clean themselves properly after toileting.

For example, they may wipe from the back to the front, bringing germs with them from the anus. This insufficient or incorrect hygiene makes it easier for microorganisms from the stool to reach the vulva and vagina.

Clothing and other irritants

Sometimes a girl’s underwear may not be appropriate. This may be due to the tight fit or the composition of the fabrics. In addition, many times, we use soaps and other substances for hygiene, such as wipes, which can also alter the pH and the natural protection of the skin.

Therefore, we’re faced with a situation in which the genitals are more susceptible to irritation, and, in addition, neither hygiene nor certain practices help to improve this.

You may be interested in: Vaginal Infections During Pregnancy

What are the symptoms of vulvovaginitis?

Symptoms may vary from one girl to another and may occur with different intensities in each case. Some of the most common symptoms are:

A young girl sitting on a potty.
  • The genital area may appear irritated. That is, it may appear red and swollen and the child may experience itching, burning, or discomfort.
  • There may be abnormal vaginal discharge. Usually, at these ages, under normal conditions, there’s no vaginal discharge. In addition, this discharge may be grayish or yellowish and have a strong odor.
  • Occasionally, the girl also has discomfort or scant bleeding when urinating.

How vulvovaginitis in girls diagnosed and prevented

Many times, a physical examination and the girl’s symptoms will be enough for the specialist to establish the diagnosis. However, at other times, additional tests may be necessary. An example might be a culture of the vaginal discharge to determine if the cause is a specific bacterium.

The measures to treat and prevent this pathology are the same. Normally, with these measures, the condition will disappear in a few weeks. Some of them are:

  • Carrying out correct hygiene of the area. That is, with appropriate soaps and teaching the child to clean from the front to the back.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing, such as leggings or tight jeans in the area. In addition, the girl’s underwear should be made of cotton.
  • Avoid leaving the area wet after showers or baths at the beach or swimming pools.

You may be interested in: Urinary Tract Infections in Girls

Regarding vulvovaginitis, you should know…

Although it’s frequent and bothersome, vulvovaginitis is a benign condition that will eventually heal. It may recur several times during childhood. For this reason, it’s important to always carry out the correct hygiene measures.

As always, when any symptom appears, we must go to a specialist, as they’ll be responsible for confirming the diagnosis and establishing another type of treatment if necessary.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.