Vaginal Health in a Heat Wave
As temperatures keep creeping up, it’s a natural tendency to wonder how extreme temperatures can affect our bodies. More specifically, how extreme heat conditions can affect vaginal health. Here are some important things to remember to be aware of when battling the heat:
Stay hydrated! – Remembering to drink plenty of fluids is important for all aspects of your health. Dehydration can lead to migraines, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and even difficulty urinating. Since urination is a process that helps remove toxins from our bodies, having difficulty or being unable to urinate can be very harmful for our health. Staying hydrated also benefits your vaginal health! Lack of fluids can lead to vaginal dryness, which can cause itchiness, soreness, and/or burning. So, keep chugging those fluids!
Watch your Grooming Habits! – Summer is traditionally the season for shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits. Throughout swimsuit season, women tend to groom their vaginal region more frequently. However, pubic hair provides a lot of health benefits that are lost when waxed, tweezed, and/or shaved off. Board certified OB-GYN Jaqueline M. Walters, M.D. states that vaginal pubic hair “provides a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury [and] protection from bacteria and other unwanted pathogens”. However, do not be deterred from grooming if that is what you so wish, just when you do shave it all off, be weary of ingrown hairs, chaffing, and cuts that can lead to infection.
Cotton To It! Synthetic fibers can be irritating, and cotton undies, they do help avoid infections. Thongs, excessive mini pads to catch sweat, and bathing with too many scented products can be irritating as well.
Check, Double check! Although many women know a yeast infection when they have one, and it's typically not harmful to try to self treat. Women are only accurate about whether they have a vaginal infection about 30-50% of the time.
Be Wary About Hot Flashes! – Menopausal symptoms can arise anytime, anywhere. However, they tend to be exacerbated by the climbing temperatures. As many woman can attest, hot flashes can cause a lot of discomfort and misery and have a habit of ruining a bright and sunny summer day. Try dressing in light, loose layers and carrying a handheld fan when you go outside. Drink plenty of water and avoid spicy foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. Additionally, take a dip in a pool and/or swim some laps. Exercise can help manage your stress, which will also help alleviate your hot flash symptoms.
Stay Cool! – Older adults tend to not notice excessive heat, sweat as profusely, or feel as thirsty. Even if you aren’t completely quenched, drink plenty of water. Just because your body doesn’t tell you, doesn’t me you aren’t getting dehydrated. On a similar note, even if you don’t feel overheated, try taking a break from the sun and going inside for an hour or two. (It might even save you from an inevitable sunburn).
Just Relax! – Don’t get too boggled down about your health during a heat wave. Try and enjoy the sunny summer days until fall comes around. Take each day at a time and listen to your body when it says it needs something. Your body will regulate itself, you just have to listen when it’s giving you subtle hints.
If you are not worried about experiencing hot flashes during the summer, still be vigilant about the heat and how it effects your body. Heat strokes are very common in this kind of weather and it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke, such as: headache, dizziness, lack of sweating (despite the heat), nausea, vomiting, weakness, hot, dry skin, and/or rapid heartbeat. If you or anyone around you is experiencing these symptoms, call 911, as heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.
All in all, be careful! Listen to your body and just try to relax. If you are worried about your vaginal, or even all around health, during these high temperatures, schedule an appointment with your gyno to answer any questions and discuss your options.