Summers are meant for fun, sun, and R&R — unfortunately, they’re also prime time for experiencing some not-so-pleasant symptoms down south. These issues can leave you anxious and uncomfortable, but remember: You are not alone. Below-the-belt health problems are more common than you think this time of year, thanks to hot temperatures, bikini-grooming routines, wet bathing suits, and sexy beach flings. Ahead, finally, are your most itch-inducing vaginal health problems — solved.
Urinary Tract Infections
After analyzing urinary tract infection rates in the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Brazil, China, and Australia, researchers found cases of UTIs significantly increased during the summer months in all seven countries, a study in PLOS One shows. Warmer temperatures during the sunny season may play a role, so researchers suggest sipping water regularly. “When you get dehydrated, your body isn’t able to dilute the bacteria that passes through your bladder, increasing your chance of getting a UTI,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. “Cranberry juice has also been shown to help prevent bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder — but it’s loaded with sugar, so I usually recommend cranberry extract from your local health-food store instead.”
Proper grooming is a must for bikini lines, but painful bumps can be the sign of a wax gone wrong. “Waxing strips should always be pulled off in the proper direction (opposite of hair growth) to ensure the hair is removed in its entirety, or else it will break and result in ingrown hairs,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City. When showering, exfoliate your bikini area with a gentle scrub. “Regular exfoliation will help release any trapped or curly hairs, which might pop out and reenter the skin.”
Those Lululemon pants may look chic enough to wear from Bikram to brunch, but spending too much time in sweaty fitness gear or damp bathing suits can make you vulnerable to odor-causing yeast infections. “It’s the number-one problem I come across during the summer months,” says Dr. Minkin. “People are spending more time outdoors being active, and as a result they’re often sitting around in wet swimsuits or exercise clothes — all that moisture creates a breeding ground for fungus” If you won’t dry off quickly in the sun, make sure to pack a clean swimsuit or dry bottoms to change into as soon as possible. If you suspect you have a yeast infection, try an OTC remedy first. “If symptoms don’t improve after one course of treatment, seek help from your doctor,” advises Dr. Minkin.
Numbness Between Your Legs
Whether you’re taking a relaxing ride on a beach cruiser or sweating it up in spin class, too much time in the saddle could reduce sensation in your genitals. A study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found an association between bicycling and reduced genital sensation in women. “Pressure on soft tissue from bike seats can leave you with a numb or tingling feeling between the legs,” says Dr. Minkin. If you find this is happening to you, get extra padding with a gel seat cover for your ride, or consider investing in a female-friendly bike saddle. Specialized’s Myth bike seat was medically designed by an Ob/Gyn to prevent numbness. Most importantly, give your body a break and get off your bike to enjoy the scenery.
Itching & Irregular Discharge
Getting hot and heavy in a pool, lake, ocean, or jacuzzi may sound like a fun way to spice up your sex life, but these escapades can have consequences: “The natural PH of your vagina is acidic, and introducing water can make it more neutral, or alkaline, creating a more inviting environment for bacteria,” says Dr. Minkin. Even worse is the fact that these water romps aren’t conducive to wearing a condom, and water washes spermicides away — all of which puts you at risk for unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, warns Dr. Minkin. A better idea? Use the water for a little foreplay, but move to dry land for the main event — and always, always use protection.