Thrush is very common but do you really know what it is, or what to do about it?

Around 75% of women will get thrush at some point

What is it?

Most girls have yeast in their vaginas from puberty onwards. The yeast is called 'candida albicans', which is definitely NOT a baker's yeast. It's meant to be there, and most of the time it causes no problems. But sometimes the yeast goes into overdrive and replicates too fast, which can cause thrush - also known as candidiasis (can-di-dy-uh-sis).

It is not a sexually transmitted infection. Virgins and nuns are at risk, too. Vaginal thrush is fairly harmless but it's not particularly nice.

If you get it, you're not alone - around 75% of women will get thrush at some point, and many will get it more than once.

How do I know I have it?

Girls: Itchy, sore or swollen vagina, white thick (but not smelly) discharge.

Boys: Irritation or redness around the penis.

How do I avoid it?

Sometimes it's unavoidable, for example antibiotics can stir up thrush. But you may want to avoid strong scented soaps, bubble baths and shower gels. Stick to cotton underwear, quit the skinny jeans habit, change your tampon or towel often and avoid panty liners on non-period days.

The vaginal area is a self-cleaning organ, so washing with water should be enough - avoid using vaginal deodorants or douches.

How do I get rid of it?

Buy a treatment from the chemist. There are creams, pessaries (small tablets to put in the vagina) and other medicines available, and it's generally easily treated. You can also get treatment on prescription from your GP.

What else do I need to know?

If the treatment doesn't work - head for the doctors. You need to be sure this really is thrush. Sexually transmitted infections can cause discharge and soreness too, so these must be ruled out if your thrush doesn't get better with treatment.

It's worth seeing the doc even if you've never had sex, especially if thrush keeps coming back (this is also fairly common). There are other treatments that can help.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


Related Links

More on Health & Wellbeing