Vulval Skin Care For Children

Vulval Skin Care For Children

The vulva includes the outer genitals in females. The skin around the vulva is thin in tamariki and can be easily irritated. Good vulval skin care can help lessen the chance of irritation. 


Key points about vulval skin care for children 

  • the vulva includes the outer genitals in females 
  • the skin around the vulva can be thin and delicate in tamariki
  • vulval skin can be easily irritated
  • irritation of the vulva can lead to itching and discomfort 
  • good vulval skin care can help lessen the chance of itch and irritation

What is the vulva?

The vulva includes all the outer genitals in females, including the vagina and urethra (where wee drains from).  

Medical illustration showing vulva and vagina anatomy

Why is vulval skin care necessary?

The vulva includes all the outer genitals in females. Because the skin around the vulva can be thin in younger tamariki, it can become easily irritated and inflamed. There are several ways you can help to care for this skin to lessen the chance of irritation.

Common symptoms that your child may experience if their vulval skin is irritated include:

  • itching
  • redness of the skin around the vulva
  • pain when passing urine

See the KidsHealth page on vulval conditions in children to learn more

What care of the vulval skin is needed in children?


You do not need to use soap to clean your child's vulval area, water is fine. Treat the skin of the vulval area very gently, do not over-wash the area.

To stop the skin from becoming irritated, avoid the following things:

  • bubble baths
  • scented soaps or creams
  • using or getting shampoo around the vulva area 
  • hot baths
  • coloured, printed or scented toilet paper 
  • nappy wipes 
  • talcum powder

Always encourage your child to wee when they first feel the need to go. Don’t use nappy wipes to wipe the vulva area. Instead, you can use a paper towel wet with tap water to clean the area. 

Clothing and laundry

It is important to consider clothing and laundry options, as some washing products and tight clothing can irritate the vulva. Things that can help include:

  • use cotton underwear
  • avoid dressing your child in tights and leggings
  • have your child wear loose-fitting pants and skirts
  • do not use laundry rinse aids in the washing machine
  • ensure laundry detergent is rinsed well from your child's underwear 

Physical activity 

If your child has played sports or been active, change them out of their sports clothes as soon as possible after exercise. Remove swimming costumes soon after swimming. Where possible, avoid lengthy activities that put direct pressure on the vulva, such as bike and horse riding. 

What measures can help if my child has vulval irritation or itch?

Vinegar baths

If your child does have some irritation around the vulva, you can try a vinegar bath. Vinegar baths can help to prevent mild infections in the vulva and may relieve itch. Add ½ a cup of white vinegar to a shallow bath. Allow your child to sit and soak in it for up to 15 minutes. Depending on their symptoms, your child can have a vinegar bath anywhere from once a week to twice a day. 

Cool compress

You can make a cool compress with paper towels and water and apply it to the vulva to relieve itch. Place it in the underwear like a sanitary pad. This can be particularly helpful after exercise. 

Avoid scratching

Encourage your child to avoid scratching the area. Scratching can cause the itch to worsen, and the area can become more irritated after scratching. 


Do not use any medication or creams on the genital area that haven’t been prescribed for your child. The vulva skin is more sensitive than other skin, so if your child does need cream, your doctor will advise the right one to use. 

Your doctor can prescribe a fragrance-free barrier cream such as a zinc cream. This can be applied throughout the day and can relieve itch and dryness. 

When should I take my child to the doctor?

If your child has itch or irritation around the vulva, which is not settling with simple measures, take them to the doctor. 

See the doctor as soon as possible if your child has any of the following symptoms: 

  • burning or stinging when they wee
  • the skin appears raw and broken
  • vaginal discharge
  • bleeding from the vulva or vaginal area
  • fever or tummy pain 

There are several different causes of vulval itch and irritation. If your child needs treatment, your doctor will discuss this with you. 

See the KidsHealth page on vulval conditions in children to learn more


Illustration by Dr Greta File. Property of KidsHealth.

This page last reviewed 31 August 2023.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it