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Vaginal and groin irritation and infection

4-minute read

There is delicate skin around your groin, around your vulva and inside your vagina, making these areas vulnerable to a wide range of conditions that can cause irritation. (Vulva is the general name given to the external parts of the female genitals.)

What causes vulva and vagina irritation?

Irritation of the vulva and vagina is quite common and most women will experience it at least once in their lives.

Many things can cause irritation including:

  • lubricants and spermicides and latex products used during sex, such as condoms
  • excess washing or vaginal douching (washing out the vagina) or hygiene products such as soaps, shower gels, shampoos, or hygiene sprays
  • disinfectants, antiseptics and ointments
  • washing powders or liquids
  • perfumed toilet paper
  • sanitary pads or tampons

Irritation can also occur when wearing new underwear, especially if it is not made from cotton, removing pubic hair and swimming in a chlorine pool.

Groin irritation can also be due to a build-up of sweat from not washing and drying your groin properly, or from over-washing or scrubbing the area.

What causes a vaginal infection?

As well as the causes listed above, irritation may also be a result of fungal, bacterial or viral infections such as thrush, trichomoniasis or genital herpes.

Infection is particularly likely if an unusual vaginal discharge is also present.

You may also want to read our information about thrush or vaginal discharge.

What causes groin infections?

Groin infections can be caused by a fungus. A fungal infection of the groin can often be irritating to the skin and may be very painful or itchy. Fungal infections may be passed on from person to person, but this is not always the case. They like moist, warm places to infect, such as folds of skin. To prevent fungal infections the area should be kept clean and dry and avoid sharing towels, bedding or clothes.

Looking after yourself

Groin or vaginal irritation

To sooth pain in the groin: try a cool compress or ice pack (a bag of frozen peas works well) wrapped in a cloth, not placed directly against the skin. Ice packs can be re-applied every 2 to 3 hours but do not leave them on the skin for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you are in pain, see a pharmacist or GP to get advice on medicines you can take.

Washing: Wash only with water or salt water and do not douche (wash inside the vagina). Avoid using perfumed soaps, shower gels or deodorants around the area, as this can cause further irritation.

Clothing: Wear loose fitting, cotton underpants and wash all underwear in unscented soap and rinse well. Avoid G-strings, pantyhose and tight jeans.

Creams: There are several soothing creams and ointments available. Pharmacists can advise on the best way to treat the irritation. Do not apply any creams or lotions you might already have without discussing your problem with a pharmacist first.

Other tips:

  • Reduce swimming in chlorine, and remove swimwear immediately afterwards.
  • Use 100% cotton pads or tampons. As menstrual blood may irritate the area, consider using tampons.
  • Lean forward when urinating to avoid burning.

Groin or vaginal infection

Washing tips: Clean the area in warm (not hot) water at least twice a day. Pat dry carefully and then apply any cream you have been given by your doctor or pharmacist.

Avoid using perfumed soaps, shower gels or deodorants around the area, as this can cause further irritation. Do not douche. Keep the area dry and free from sweat to make it difficult for the fungus to survive.

Wash your hands before and after cleaning to prevent the spread of the infection. Also, do not share your face cloth or towel with others.

Creams: If you are using intravaginal creams or pessaries, you’ll need to use menstrual pads rather than tampons.Clothing: Change underwear daily and wear loose-fitting pants.

Pain relief: If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take.

Consider others

If you have a sexually transmitted infection, tell your sexual partner(s) so they can also be examined and treated if necessary. Avoid any sexual contact with others until the infection has cleared.

If you are concerned about your vaginal irritation, please consult your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about vaginal irritation and infection, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2019

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