In many cases, you can safely treat a vaginal yeast infection with an over-the-counter medication. You can also try to treat a yeast infection at home with these tips to ease itching, burning, and other symptoms. Just know the three situations in which you should see a doctor, and then you can get started.
When Self-Care Might Be OK
There’s one other question to ask yourself first. Have you had sex with a new partner? Many of the symptoms of a yeast infection -- itching, burning, and vaginal discharge -- can mimic the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
When to See Your Doctor
If any of these three situations sounds like yours, you need a doctor's attention:
- It's the first yeast infection you've ever had. See a doctor to be sure it's not a more serious problem that needs a different treatment, such as a urinary tract infection or STI.
- You're pregnant. Any medications, including over-the-counter vaginal creams, need to be approved by your doctor during pregnancy.
- You often get yeast infections. If you have four or more yeast infections in a year, doctors call it “recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis.” If you have it, you’ll need treatment for up to 6 months with an antifungal medication. Frequent yeast infections can also be a sign that you have diabetes or another medical condition.
If you're concerned about your symptoms or they're different from past yeast infections you've had, you may want to see your doctor for your own peace of mind. Because symptoms are uncomfortable, some women will ask for a prescription-strength vaginal cream to ease the itching and burning more quickly than an over-the-counter product would.
Tips for Self-Care
Some things you can do to prevent yeast infections may also treat a yeast infection once you have it.
Acidophilus. Eating yogurt with live cultures of lactobacillus acidophilus -- a natural, "friendly" bacteria -- may head off a yeast infection. Taking supplements with lactobacillus acidophilus may also help prevent them.
Watch what you wear. Avoid tight-fitting pants and wear cotton panties to allow your body to "breathe" and stay cool. Yeast thrives in a moist, warm environment, so keep things airy and dry to prevent a yeast infection from coming back.
Nonprescription treatments. If you're sure you have a yeast infection based on a past episode, you could try an over-the-counter medication to treat your symptoms. These products are usually creams, dissolvable tablets, or suppositories (oval-shaped doses of the medication) that you put into your vagina.