Nearly 75 percent of all adult women have had the common infection genital/vulvovaginal candidiasis — otherwise known as a yeast infection— at least once in their lives, according to Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. The common infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of the yeast Candida, which is always present in the body in small amounts but can multiply when the normal acidity or hormonal balance changes.
As Lois P. explains, "Candidal yeast infections are common in all girls, even babies. It lives on the surface of everyone's skin and normally does not cause any problems. Sometimes when you use too much soap/bubble bath/shower gel, wear synthetic underwear, or even just get too hot, the delicate balance of bacteria that normally keeps it at bay is tipped, and it starts to overgrow and cause a problem with infection."
Readers often report that grade-school girls pick up the infection, especially when they are still learning to wipe properly after using the toilet. And when that happens, the symptoms are too aggravating to ignore. When Erin B.'s daughter gets a yeast infection, for instance, it itches so much that "she scratches so bad that she makes the area bleed, then the scratching leads to a bacterial infections."
To prevent such problems, parents obviously want to nip yeast infections in the bud. To help, we've summarized three common signs of a yeast infection, signaling it's time to see a doctor.
1. The area is inflamed and itchy
One of the first signs that might cause your daughter to alert you about a possible yeast infection is when the area becomes inflamed and itchy. "I have two little girls, ages 6 and 9, who often get the redness and itchiness around the labia," says mom Marianne S., noting that yeast infections tend to flare up in the Summer when her daughters wear tight pants and sweat more.
Sherri C. agrees that "early signs of vaginal yeast infection include itching and burning in the vagina and around the vulva, which is the skin surrounding the vagina. Another sign of a vaginal yeast infection is dry, flaky skin in the same area."
2. There is a cheesy-looking discharge
In addition to the skin inflammation and itching, a yeast infection is "generally associated with a cheesy discharge," mom Veronica says. The discharge is typically thick, white, and curd-like, Sherri C. adds. "It may look like cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. While it is usually odorless, this discharge may have a faint smell like bread or yeast, even though what is used in baking and brewing is an entirely different type of yeast. The discharge can range from thick to faintly yellow to thin and clear."
If there's no "white, curd-like stuff in the folds of her skin," then red, itchy skin might just be a sign of a rash instead of a yeast infection, Amanda G. says. "If she's not having the discharge, she could just be irritated by something," Katherine C. agrees. But a smelly discharge "usually means that the bad bacteria has overtaken the good," Melana S. says.
3. Has she taken antibiotics lately?
Aside from the itching and discharge, a yeast infection can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are often similar to those of other infections. As a result, is important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment with the correct medication, the CDC says. Nevertheless, a yeast infection is a likely suspect if your daughter has recently taken antibiotics.
When antibiotics fight infections, an unfortunate outcome is that they can sometimes simultaneously kill good bacteria that keeps yeast in balance, Noreen B. explains. "If she has been on antibiotics, she may have a lack of good bacteria that fights the yeast. I have a sensitivity to some antibiotics and have had it flare up in many body areas," she says.
Still, the only way to properly diagnose a yeast infection is to take a sample of the discharge to see if an abnormal amount of Candida organisms are present, the CDC says. Moreover, while over-the-counter medications are available, "it is important to be sure of the diagnosis before treating a genital/vulvovaginal candidiasis infection . . . because overuse of these medications can increase the chance that they will eventually not work because the yeast can become resistant to treatment."
So, readers conclude, when you suspect your daughter might have a yeast infection, see your pediatrician immediately to get your girl some relief.