Summer swimming – without mycosis, without itchingArticle
26. 07. 2023
Summer brings not only many joys, but also a lot of worries. We are attracted to swimming in the great outdoors, which is not only an excellent way to cool down and relax during a heat wave, but also to restore our energy through immediate contact with nature. We often become so enchanted by the beauty of nature that we forget our usual hygiene practices. High summer temperatures and inappropriate clothing can also cause problems in the intimate parts. Approximately 75 % of women will experience vaginal mycosis in their lifetime, often repeatedly. How can such gynaecological problems be prevented?
Hurrah for the outdoors
It is important to seek out a safe and clean location before you go swimming in the outdoors. You can easily find up-to-date information on the condition of lakes, biotopes and ponds that are suitable for recreation on the websites of the regional health authorities. A complete overview is available on the Koupací vody (Swimming Waters) portal (www.koupacivody.cz). Water quality at the monitored locations is regularly tested and evaluated by health inspectors. You can also try the popular international Swimplaces app.
What’s going on down there
Unfortunately, summer is also a period with an increased occurrence of gynaecological inflammation and vaginal disorders. This involves an imbalance in the ratio of lactobacilli and other bacteria. “These problems are often caused by anaerobic bacteria such as Gardnerella vaginalis, which causes acute as well as recurring discomfort. There are also yeast infections and various sexually transmitted diseases,” explains MUDr. Tereza Čeledová, gynaecologist at Canadian Medical.
How does hot weather affect the vaginal area?
“Increased temperature in the intimate area can cause direct irritation of the vulvovaginal area or create suitable conditions for the excessive growth of pathogens, especially yeast. Therefore, this involves not only the temperature itself, but also inappropriately chosen non-breathable clothing, which can cause an intertrigo to occur in the intimate parts due to increased temperature. It can adversely affect the acidic environment of the vagina and thus contribute to the disruption of the microbial balance of the vaginal environment. Furthermore, inappropriate cosmetics, excessive hygiene, unsuitable underwear, prolonged exposure to chlorinated water and other factors can disturb the vaginal environment,” says MUDr. Čeledová.
Bet on prevention
If women have recurring problems or concerns, probiotics – lactobacilli available over the counter at pharmacies – are an ideal form of prevention. How to use them? “We recommend administering them vaginally, always in the evening before going to bed. For example, twice a week is sufficient for prevention. For long-term prevention, I recommend this formula: 1-2 vaginal probiotic tablets always after menstruation and in the middle of the cycle. Another very good product is borax, or borax glycerin globule, which is used in the same way. I definitely do not recommend taking over-the-counter antifungals or medications left over in your medicine cabinet from previous years as a means of prevention,” says MUDr. Čeledová.
Swimming in the outdoors requires the right equipment. Choose breathable clothing and pack in your bag two swimsuits that you feel comfortable in and that don’t constrict you anywhere. A towel or sarong that you can wrap around your waist will help when you are changing. “It’s also true that excessive hygiene and preventive rinses often only interfere with the vagina’s natural immunity. Intimate washing gels, which are supposed to ensure pH balance, should be used with caution. It is always better to give preference to vaginal probiotic products. The basis of intimate hygiene, not only in the summer, should be washing with warm, clean water, using non-perfumed soaps and small amounts of intimate hygiene products,” the gynaecologist recommends.
Cultures can be misleading
With regard to problems in the vaginal area, MUDr. Tereza Čeledová points out an important issue. “If you visit a gynaecologist because of common summer vaginal discomfort or discharge, requesting a culture examination is not the right thing to do. Patients often quite emphatically demand an examination by means of a vaginal culture. In this case, the culture is a completely misleading examination that often leads us to a misdiagnosis and, mainly, to incorrect treatment, which can cause more harm than benefit to the patient in the future. The vagina is naturally full of the broadest variety of bacteria, and yeasts also naturally occur in it. A culture doesn’t tell us anything at all about the cause of the problem, but only about the random bacteria that grow in the culture medium. The best thing to do is to rely on gynaecological and microscopic examinations, which, for example, I offer to patients in my office. They’re immediate and absolutely accurate, and I tell the patient the result right away in the office,” says MUDr. Čeledová.
Change out of wet swimwear immediately
“Wet swimwear prolongs contact between the intimate parts and water, thus keeping the area moist for a longer time and contributing to the disturbance of the pH and natural immunity of the vagina. We're talking about a moist intertrigo. Furthermore, staying in a wet swimsuit cools the genital area and urinary tract, and we therefore strongly discourage remaining in wet swimwear, especially in the case of patients who suffer from frequent occurrence of urinary tract infections,” says MUDr. Čeledová.
What kind of water is the best for summer swimming?
- Chlorinated water in swimming pools disturbs the vagina’s pH and thus its natural microflora and immunity.
- The water in natural swimming pools appears to be safe with respect to gynaecological risks. However, it may contain cyanobacteria and algae, which do not cause urogenital problems, but are rather a cause of skin irritation. Of course, it is necessary to be careful of heavily polluted water and the risk of contamination. Pregnant women in particular should exercise caution.
- According to experts, seawater is the safest.
MUDr. Tereza Čeledová, gynaecologist at Canadian Medical
This article was created in cooperation with the magazine Blesk Zdraví.