We live in Houston, where the weather often seems brutally hot year-round. It’s important to protect ourselves by recognizing all the ways heat can impact the body as we experience record-breaking temperatures this summer; but equally important to address some common misconceptions, specifically regarding gynecological health.
Nobody particularly loves feeling sweaty and sticky all over, but the bottom line is that heat, or any change in season, will not affect gynecological health or cause changes to the vagina. The vagina is an internal organ of the female body, and, therefore, its temperature is regulated just like the internal temperature of the body. Our body temperature doesn’t change drastically when we go out into the summer heat, so why should the vagina’s temperature do so?
Consider these gynecological tips as you face the heat this summer:
Be careful when it comes to grooming. During the summer, women tend to frequently remove pubic hair. Depending on your method for removal, grooming can lead to ingrown hairs, uncomfortable razor burn and infections of the hair follicles, or folliculitis. Grooming can also lead to skin injuries including burns from hot wax, cuts from shaving and even micro-abrasions that are naked to the eye, all of which can become infected and increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including human papilloma virus (HPV) and molluscum contagiosum. If you’re going to groom, try to get it done by a professional who practices proper hygiene (wears gloves, uses new applicators for waxing, etc.). It’s also important to maintain good hygiene after any type of hair removal and to keep the area clean while monitoring for any signs of infection.
Don’t be overly aggressive about vaginal hygiene. The vagina doesn’t need extra attention or cleaning just because of warmer weather; it’s an amazing part of the female anatomy with the capability to withstand all sorts of changes in pH from fluids such as menstrual blood and post-intercourse ejaculate. Your vagina can quickly adjust itself to normal conditions on its own, and this won’t change during the summer.
If traveling, plan ahead for sexual health. Don’t forget to purchase and pack condoms, alongside birth control, for protection against STIs and pregnancy. Try to make an appointment with your gynecologist for STI testing and contraception planning well in advance of traveling.
Don’t fall for myths. Some say that wearing a tight or wet bathing suit for a long time can cause an imbalance in vaginal pH, which might lead to vaginitis, yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. This is simply not true. Tight, wet clothing might lead to external irritation of the vulva or labia from rubbing/chafing, but this is very different from vaginal inflammation and infection. The skin of the vulva is actually durable enough to tolerate daily rubbing of clothing and regular friction from intercourse. So, unless your bathing suit is just uncomfortably tight, you probably won’t find yourself in a serious vaginal situation.
Dr. Bolt’s comments originally appeared in an article from Bustle.