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Vaginal irritation and infection

Groin or vaginal irritation

Irritation around your groin or inside your vagina is often caused by the sensitive skin of these areas coming into contact with:

  • lubricants and spermicides
  • latex products – such as condoms
  • soaps, shower gels, shampoos, deodorants or hygiene sprays
  • disinfectants, antiseptics and ointments
  • washing powders or liquids
  • new underwear, especially if it is not made from cotton
  • by pubic hair removal methods, such as hair removal creams or shaving
  • perfumed toilet paper
  • perspiration or other bodily fluids
  • sanitary pads or tampons
  • swimming in a chlorine pool
  • excess washing or vaginal douching (washing out the vagina).

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.

Vaginal irritation is quite common and most women will experience it at least once in their lives. In addition to the causes listed above irritation may also be a result of an infection, such as thrush 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.

Groin infections

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. Fungal infections of the groin can often be irritating to the skin and may be very painful or itchy. 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

  • Pain in the groin may be soothed by a cool compress. An ice pack may help but should not be placed directly against the skin. Try wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a cloth (such as a clean tea towel) and hold this around the painful area. Ice packs can be re-applied every 2-3 hours but do not leave them on the skin for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take.
  • Wash only with water or salt water.
  • Do not douche (wash inside the vagina).
  • Avoid using perfumed soaps, shower gels or deodorants around the area, as this can cause further irritation.
  • Reduce swimming in chlorine, and remove swimwear immediately.
  • Wear loose fitting, cotton underpants and wash all underwear in unscented soap and rinse well.
  • Avoid G-strings, pantyhose and tight jeans.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Clean the area in warm water at least twice a day. Pat dry carefully and then apply any cream you have been given by your doctor or pharmacist. Use warm rather than hot water.
  • Avoid using perfumed soaps, shower gels or deodorants around the area, as this can cause further irritation. Do not douche.
  • Use pads rather than tampons while you are using intravaginal creams or pessaries.
  • 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.
  • Keep the area dry and free from sweat to make it difficult for the fungus to survive.
  • Change underwear daily and wear loose fitting pants
  • If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take.

Consider others

  • Tell your sexual partner(s) so they can also be examined and treated if necessary. If you have an infection 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).

Last reviewed: September 2017

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