Ask An Adult: What's Thrush, How Do I Stop It, And Why Do I Get It?
The Debrief: If you find yourself unable to sit still on a train for wanting of a good itch down below, then it’s time to consider the fact you may have thrush. We spoke to a sexual health expert to find out more about thrush and what you can do to get rid of it.
I’ve been speaking to a guy on Tinder for a few weeks now, and last Friday when he asked me if he could come over for a few ‘drinks’, I really wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t. The problem? I had just shoved half a tub of Neo-Valley natural yoghurt up my vagina.
A few of you reading this are probably wondering why I didn’t just have him come over and lick me clean, but the majority of you are probably wondering why the hell I had shoved yoghurt up my hoo-ha in the first place. Well, I had thrush – and boy is it a bitch.
As someone who has never experienced thrush before, I turned to my friends for advice. Worryingly though, most of them had never even heard of thrush and those who had, thought it was either a sexually transmitted disease or something you only got with menopause.
Instead, I turned to Richard Essery to clue myself and my mates up on all thrush-related issues. Richard has spent five years working on Ask Brook, the young person’s sexual health helpline, and therefore knows a fair bit on the matter.
What is thrush?
Although both males and females can get thrush, it’s far more common in women and three quarters of us will get it at some point. ‘Thrush is an infection that is caused by a yeast fungus. It’s not an STI, but it can sometimes develop after sex,’ Richard says.
Is thrush in any way linked to STIs?
‘Although it can develop after sex, which may be linked to a lack of lubrication during sex, it’s not a sexually transmitted infection,’ he says. ‘It’s often the first thought that people have when they experience a pain or a change in their discharge, which is why it’s really important to see a professional and get checked out.’
What causes thrush?
‘Thrush is caused by a yeast fungus called candida albicans. It usually lives on the skin and in the mouth, gut and vagina without causing any issues,’ he says. ‘However, if something changes (for instance being pregnant), then the chances of developing thrush will increase.’
Wondering what trigged my sudden bout of thrush, I asked Richard to explain some of the common causes. Apparently wearing tight clothing or underwear is a big factor, as this stops your body from being able to breathe. Taking antibiotics (which I was at the time) or undergoing chemotherapy can also cause thrush. As can an uncontrolled illness affecting your immune system or using products that irritate the vagina, such as vaginal deodorants and heavily perfumed bubble baths or shower gels.
What are the symptoms of thrush?
Richard says that the most common symptoms in women are ‘itching, soreness and redness around the vagina, vulva or anus and an unusual white discharge from the vagina, often described as smelling ‘yeasty’ and looking like cottage cheese.’ So as you can see, I couldn’t really invite my Tinder date over for a night of fun.
What treatments can you buy over the counter and when should you go to your GP?
‘There are loads of thrush treatments available over the counter, such as antifungal creams, pessaries and pills’ explains Richard. If you’re experiencing symptoms like these for the time then he advised speaking with your doctor or a medical professional first. ‘They can do a simple test by taking a swab to check if it is thrush and not something similar, like bacterial vaginosis. This way you can make sure you get the treatment that is right for you.’
I popped into Boots during my lunch break to speak to a pharmacist about my symptoms (tad embarrassing when the guy next to you only wants a ham and cheese sandwich and a bottle of water) and she advised I take Caneston Duo – a cream and oral capsule. If you are going to buy an over-the-counter treatment then it’s probably worth speaking to a pharmacist to make sure you buy the best product for you.
What can you do to make thrush less irritating? Does rubbing natural yoghurt on your vagina actually work?
I found myself at home eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching When Harry Met Sally while rubbing yoghurt over my vagina (and hoping I didn’t mix the two tubs up) after reading that natural yoghurt helps restore your pH levels during a yeast infection. While it definitely helped sooth the itching, I wanted to ask Richard if my trick was actually one worth noting and what else helps make thrush less irritating.
‘Rubbing natural yoghurt on your vagina certainly won’t do you any harm, but there’s no real evidence to suggest it will do much good either. Wearing thick tights may not help either,’ he advises. ‘When you have it, it’s more likely that you would be recommended a course of anti-fungal tablets, creams or a pessary.’ Shame.
What can you do to prevent thrush?
Unfortunately, the causes of thrush vary and many of these are out of our control. ‘Avoid wearing tight or restricting underwear and jeans/trousers and avoid using products that may cause irritation. Remember, the vagina is self-cleaning!’ Richard says.
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