Genital skin irritation can be caused by perfumed soaps and powders,
laundry detergents, poor hygiene, or underwear made of fabric that is rough or
contains dyes. Genital skin irritation in preschool-aged girls usually is
caused by poor hygiene.
Irritation of the skin around the vagina or the urethra may cause a
burning pain when urine touches the irritated skin. Pain from genital skin
irritation occurs more frequently in women and girls than it does in men and
boys. Half of all girls with pain during urination have genital skin irritation
rather than a
urinary tract infection. Pain during urination along
with a frequent need to urinate may occur when the foreskin of an uncircumcised
boy becomes inflamed.
To help prevent genital skin irritation:
Wash the genital area once a day with plain water
or mild soap. Rinse well and dry thoroughly. Do not use perfumed soaps or
powders, which can irritate skin. Avoid bubble baths, which can irritate and
dry the skin.
Wear cotton underwear, cotton-lined panty hose, and
loose clothing. This helps promote the circulation of air to the vaginal
Change a child's diaper when it is wet and immediately after
a bowel movement. Wash your hands before and after each diaper change.
Women who have a history of urinary problems may find it helpful to
not use a diaphragm or spermicide creams, foams, or gels.
Other causes of genital skin irritation include sexual intercourse,
bike riding, not urinating often enough, injury, or an infection in the vaginal
or rectal area, such as
herpes, vaginitis, or
human papillomavirus (HPV).
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.