Considering that, oh, everything else is cancelled, you might be yearning to spend extra time in your swimsuit this summer. After all, beaches around the country are slowly opening up (stay social distanced, friends), or maybe you’re one of the lucky few who have a pool (and by that I mean, your parents have a pool).
But heads up: If you’re bikini-bound this summer, you might want to be mindful about not staying in your swimsuit for too long at a time. Why? I hate to break it to you, fam, but it is possible to get a yeast infection from a wet bathing suit.
Yeast infections happen when the pH balance of your vagina is disrupted, which in turn affects the natural ecosystem of good bacteria and yeast that naturally hang out in your vagina. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including sexual activity, antibiotic use, or even pregnancy. Regardless of the cause, the end result is the same: an overgrowth of the yeast Candida to cause a yeast infection, says OB/GYN and fertility specialist Lucky Sekhon, MD. (Read: Burning and itching ~down there~, thick white discharge, the works.)
One of the first ways to avoid a yeast infection is to keep that area dry, which is where bathing suits come into play. “Yeast tends to proliferate in warm, dark, moist places,” says Dr. Sekhon. “Since a wet bathing suit sticks to your body and doesn’t allow for any breathability between the clothing and the vaginal opening, it promotes a moist, warm environment which is basically a set up for a yeast infection.”
So typically what’s impacting your pH balance isn’t exclusively the adorable one-piece with the lemons and the ties on the side. It’s that dark, clinging, cavelike environment that tells the fungus, “Yes, you can thrive here.” That being said, there are other factors that can impact your vaginal flora, especially when it comes to the type of water you’re dipping in. All water can impact pH balance, whether it’s ocean water, river water, or shower water. But pool water might be extra unfriendly.
“It’s possible that the residue of pool chemicals, such as chlorine, left on or against the skin from wearing a wet bathing suit for a prolonged period of time, can promote an imbalance in the vaginal and vulvar bacteria,” Dr. Sekhon says. “Also, some people are more prone to yeast infections than others—such as those taking antibiotics or with a suppressed immune system—and they may be more likely to develop a yeast infection from wearing a wet bathing suit.”
On the upswing, it isn’t super difficult to prevent any beach or poolside yeast infections. What it really boils down to keeping something to change into (cotton is always your vagina’s best friend) the second you know you’re done going into the water.
“It would be best to try and change into a dry bathing suit, or better yet a pair of underwear and a cover up if you are no longer swimming,” Dr. Sekhon says. “If you must lounge around in a wet bathing suit, try to towel off thoroughly and let it dry off in the sun to mitigate the moisture against the skin of your vulva; this may reduce the risk.”
I’d also say you can always try skinny dipping, but mmmm, maybe not this summer.
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