Whenever I go away on a summer holiday, I seem to always get thrush by the end of it. I don’t understand why it keeps happening and it obviously makes for a very uncomfortable trip. What can I do to avoid getting it this time around?
Of all the ads I’ve seen promoting the latest summer-holiday destination, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a doctor doing a consultation for thrush!
But if we are being truthful and put aside our embarrassment, thrush goes hand-in-hand with holiday romances, cocktails and lounging about in the pool. Firstly, let’s look at what you are dealing with: vaginal thrush refers to an infection of the yeast candida, leading to inflammation, discomfort, itching and often a discharge ‘down below’. While candida is present in the vagina in small amounts, it’s kept in check by the natural balance of the normal vaginal microbiome (safe bugs or bacteria). When that natural balance is upset, that’s when infections can flare and can lead to discomfort if not treated.
Now, let’s tackle the culprits…
To start with, those refreshing dips in the pool could be your issue. The problem with spending too much time in chlorinated pool water is that it changes the naturally acidic climate of your vagina; by making things less acidic, you’re shifting that natural balance, allowing thrush to flare.
The same goes for the midnight soak in the hot tub.
Then there’s all the palaver that comes with wearing your togs. The act of ensuring things are all trim and tidy – by waxing or shaving, for example – irritates your skin, once again paving the way for thrush to wreak havoc. Next there’s overindulgence: all things nice, including sugar and spice, and the allure of the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Overindulging on the yummy stuff, especially sugar, not only changes your gut microbiome, but also that of your vagina. And you know what that means. And a cracking holiday never happened unless you posted a selfie by the pool with a cocktail, right? But party too hard and it could be more than a hangover that catches up with you. Too much alcohol messes with your immune system, which in turn messes up what happens ‘there’.
Oh, and if all that isn’t enough, too much fun after dark (you know what I’m talking about) is another factor. While candida isn’t classed as an STD, you can pick up a new strain from a new partner. But it’s usually the change in frequency of sex or a new lubricant used on holiday that creates the problem.
Getting a little overzealous with your personal hygiene can also trigger thrush. The vagina is an amazing self-cleaning organ; it doesn’t need any special treatment, so leave it alone. Over-washing or experimenting with new techniques, such as douching, will only wash out all the good bugs, allowing thrush to thrive.
So, how can you still enjoy the holidays without the thrush? Well, if you’re always returning from a break away with more than an itch for the next one, perhaps you need to change a few of your holiday habits. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun, it just means being more aware of the possible causes and making a few adjustments: don’t party too hard, make sure you stick to a good diet – at least most of the time – and rethink how much time you spend in the pool.
At the very least, I recommend taking a few treatments for thrush with you, such as the creams or tablets you can get from a pharmacy. You might even consider using the creams every day just in case, and ask your doctor to help you come up with a plan that will work for you before you leave.
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For more on this topic, this is what happens when you sleep in undies, and is your discharge normal? A GP reveals…