Written by Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria
|...dirty panties harbour germs|
Do you itch down there? Do you perceive offensive odour from your genital area? Or have you been treating vaginal infections too frequently? If you answer in the affirmative to at least two of these questions, it may be time for you to throw your panties in the trash bin.
Many of us are guilty of wearing our underwear and panties for too long. Even when they have stains that won't wash off or if they already have holes and patches, we still keep wearing them. People do this not because they can't afford to buy new set of undies, but sometimes simply because they have become attached to them.
While we agree that it is not so easy to get the right fit of underwear, doctors say that wearing old underwear could predispose one to urinary tract and vaginal infections.
Consultant Gynaecologist, Dr. Olamide Adepegba, says scientific studies have shown that men and women are more likely to have changed their wardrobe four times before they change their set of underwear.
He says, "Your panties have direct contact with your reproductive organs and your skin, sweat and other fluids that contain bacteria. It is a sensitive area, an opening into the body, just like the mouth. We should take care of it so that it does not become the entry route for germs and viruses.
"As your underwear ages, the cotton wears out and it does not give the protection that it should. Consequently, more flora will thrive on it and they can be transferred from one surface to the other, meaning from the panties to the pubic hair then into the body.
"Don't forget that your underwear comes in contact with your urine, faeces and other body discharges, even when you have done your best to clean them up."
The gynaecologist notes that wearing old and worn underwear allows infections to thrive. He warns that the first symptom to watch out for is frequent and unpleasant odour from that area.
Adepegba say that women, especially, should not neglect this advice, as any odour from the genital gives an insight into the health of the woman.
They note that though it is not every smell or discharge from the area that is abnormal, it is perfectly natural to have a slight sweet smell that is non-offensive. But a strong and foul odour is a strong indication of an infection.
Chief Gyneacologist at the May Clinic, New York, Dr. Anthony Parks, says a smelly crotch is a strong indication of poor personal or genital hygiene.
He says, "The genital area is moist and warm. Bacteria can grow easily there. Excretions from the vagina, perspiration and urine can build up, thereby making it even easier for the bacteria to grow if we do not care for them the way we should."
Parks states that a major part of good hygiene is being aware of what to wear and making sure that anything that touches the vaginal area is clean.
"A girl should wear cotton underwear or the ones with a cotton crotch, at least. Underwear should be changed daily and after it becomes soiled or wet. I say replace them every year. Tight or nylon underwear, tight pants, or pantyhose cause greater perspiration, which can allow bacteria to grow."
Parks states that it is important to wash panties immediately after use, as failure to do so could put one at greater risk of infection. According to him, not washing undies immediately would only allow bacteria to multiply.
" No woman should stack underwear before washing them. You should wash it at least three hours after taking them off; else, the bacteria will spread all over and washing with soap may not even be enough.
"You may need to disinfect it with antiseptics, but how many people can do that? It goes without saying that we should change our panties every day."
Just like any part of the body, keeping a healthy vagina means taking care of the surface areas, avoiding chemicals and listening to your body when something feels out of place.
Parks recommends that the vulva and vagina should be cleaned with a bland bar soap once a day and advises that women should stay away from liquid body washes, because they often irritate the vulva area and can lead to burning or itching.
He adds that it is better not to wash the vagina with a soap-based substance every time, as too much cleaning can also cause irritation.
The gynaecologist states that besides washing the external genital area, it is important to wipe it with toilet paper after urinating or having a bowel movement.
According to him, solid body waste expelled by the anus contains bacteria that can cause vaginal and urinary tract infections if it is not cleaned off properly; while hands should be washed after using the bathroom.