The Private Stuff: Treating & Cleaning

by |  February 20th, 2014

I Need Hot WaterRecently, a reader of the 411 book series I co-author emailed a question about her daughter’s skin irritation in her private area—how it was caused and what’s the proper way to treat it. I thought I’d share the question and response here in hopes that it might address some of your issues.


My daughter is almost 5 years old and toilet trained, and still wearing easy-up diapers at night.  She has been complaining about pains in her genital area, and the skin inside the lips are red. 

She does not have a fever. Our pediatrician said that she has a yeast inflection, so he asked me to apply the antifungal cream from Canesten.  It gets better and the pains stop for a few days.  Then it happens again. 

My question is how to clean the genital area.  I am thinking that it may be caused by the area not being cleaned enough during the shower and she showers everyday. I have asked different people their thoughts and some say that just padding water into the area is sufficient. Others say I need to open the lips first, and then pad water to that area.

Please let me know what is the right way to clean it.  Many thanks!


Thanks for writing in. I agree that your daughter most likely has vaginal irritation and not an infection. The biggest culprit here is probably the pull-up she is wearing at night. Pull-ups are not as absorbent as regular diapers because they are supposed to encourage kids NOT to pee in them as they will have a wet sensation.

So, because they are not as absorbent, kids (particularly girls) who pee in them every night will have prolonged periods of moisture in their genital area which can lead to diaper rash or vaginal irritation. If she is not ready to be dry at night (and many 5-year-olds aren’t) then just go back to diapers at night–and most of the skin issues will go away.

As for cleaning a girl’s genital area, using water on a wash cloth in the shower is just fine, or you can use a very gentle cleanser like Cetaphil. Sometimes regular soaps can be irritating to the area.

Hope that helps!

Dr. B

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411 Pediatrics


Dr. Ari Brown founded 411 Pediatrics and After Hours Care in Austin after two decades of education and experience in child development, behavioral pediatrics and pediatric healthcare. Our pediatric associates, consisting of pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and lactation consultants, share a common goal. We partner with parents to help children grow up healthy, happy, and resilient!

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