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Ask Claire: She's Itchy Down "There"

My 4-year-old daughter often complains of an itchy vagina, and she's frequently red down there. Could she have a yeast infection?

She could, but more likely it's irritation from not wiping very well, a common oversight among preschool girls. Wiping is obviously important after pooping to keep germs away from the vagina, but it's also important after peeing; when the area stays moist, it can become irritated.

Make sure your daughter wipes (flushable wipes can help) and then dries well after going to the bathroom. For extra protection, avoid bubble baths, wash with a mild soap, and only use 100 percent-cotton undies. If the area is red, some diaper ointment or even just petroleum jelly can protect the skin while it heals. If it doesn't get better, or if she also has a thick, bloody, or foul-smelling discharge, call your doctor. 

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Send her your health questions at