Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Vulvitis from Soap

Definition

  • Irritation of the vulva (external genitals) from soap or other irritants
  • Mainly occurs in young girls before school age
  • Also called chemical vulvitis

Call or Return If

  • Itching lasts over 48 hours using this care advice
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding occurs
  • Passing urine becomes painful
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Genital itching in young girls (before puberty)
  • Usually no pain or burning when passing urine

Cause

  • Main Cause. Bubble bath, shampoo or soap in bath water. Soap can cause the genital area to become red, sore or itchy. This is called "soap vulvitis". Using a soapy washcloth can also be the cause.
  • This only occurs in young girls before puberty. Breast buds are the first sign of puberty. The average onset of puberty is 10 years.
  • Sometimes, it is due to poor hygiene or back to front wiping.
  • If the vagina becomes infected, a vaginal discharge also will occur.

Diagnosis

  • Usually the diagnosis is easy for young girls using bubble bath.
  • If irritation also causes pain when passing urine, the urine needs to be checked.
  • This is the only way to know if a bladder infection has also occurred.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Genital itching in young girls is most often caused by soap (especially bubble bath). This vulva area is sensitive to the drying effect of soap.
  • Only cleanse the genitals with warm water.
  • After puberty, soap can be tolerated.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Baking Soda Baths - Young Girls Only:
  • Soak for 10 minutes to remove germs and to help with healing.
  • Add 2 ounces (60 ml) baking soda per tub of warm water.
  • Reason: Baking soda is better than vinegar for young girls.
  • During soaks, be sure she spreads her legs. This allows the water to cleanse the genitals.
  • Repeat baking soda soaks 2 times per day for 2 days.
Steroid Cream:
  • Put a tiny amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream on the genitals.
  • No prescription is needed.
  • Use after soaks for 1 or 2 days. Do not use more than 2 days.
Prevention - Do Not Use Soaps:
  • Do not use bubble bath, soap and shampoo in the bath water. They can cause the genitals to be red, sore or itchy.
  • Only use warm water to cleanse the genitals.
  • Baby oil can be used to remove any dried body fluids.
  • After puberty, soap can be used.
What to Expect:
  • If soap is the cause, the pain should go away within 24 hours.
  • Itching or skin redness may last 2 days.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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