June 30, 2021
We all know the basic summer rules:
If clothing items are moist, they can create abnormal bacteria to grow and cause infection. The moist clothing can also cause abnormal friction against the vulva, which is the outer aspect of the vagina, causing irritation. The area of the body is prone to “water” – sweat, shower, baths, swimming – so it is okay for the area to be wet for some period of time. However, if the area is wet for a prolonged period of time there is a risk of maceration – skin irritation on the superficial aspect. In order to prevent this, it is best to avoid letting the skin be in contact with wet garments for a prolonged period of time. For example – runners will apply petroleum jelly during long runs to avoid this type of skin injury, since sweat can have the same effect. This applies to ALL people – no gender or age discrimination.
All genders are at equal risk for skin irritation if they stay in wet garments for too long.
Keep in mind, anything latex or plastic can be bothersome to the skin and inside the vagina due to the occlusive property of the material – trapping in moisture. Therefore, incontinence garments such as pads, liners, and Depends, can cause skin maceration as well if they are in contact with the skin for too long. As I mentioned, this risk applies to all ages, therefore babies should also be monitored due to diapers causing irritation, infection, or painful urination. This is especially important to monitor during the summer months as the rising temps can cause sweat and heat to become trapped and cause skin irritation.
Avoid sitting around in wet garments and prepare by packing a change of clothes. It is difficult to put an exact time limit on the topic, so the best thing to do is monitor the skin. If you observe extra "pruning," softening, red irritation, or breakage, then it is time to change into something dry. Adult swim, which is about 15 minutes, is OK to stay in a wet swimsuit and enjoy sunshine. A cold beverage of choice after a long hot bike ride or hike is also OK. If you are exercising for a longer period of time (i.e. a few hours) and want to avoid the sweaty chafing and risk of skin maceration – use petroleum jelly as in the above example of the runners, or another moisture barrier cream. Changing incontinence garments frequently (including baby diapers) and not waiting until they are completely soiled and almost leaking is also best, especially during the warmer months of summer.
We all want to enjoy the sunshine as best we can – so take care of yourself by doing these little things to avoid having to take time out of the fun in order to heal!
Bowen, C. (2018, June 21). Here's What Happens If You Don't Change Out Of Your Wet Bathing Suit Right Away. Romper.
D., G. J. M. (2019). The Vagina Bible: the Vulva and the Vagina--Separating the Myth from the Medicine. Kensington Pub Corp.