Is vaginal discharge normal in children?

During pregnancy, hormones pass from mother to baby via the placenta. These hormones can cause a variety of symptoms in both girls and boys including: 

  • Breast enlargement 
  • Nipple discharge 
  • Swelling of the perineum (the tissue around the vagina) in girls and the scrotum in boys 
  • Vaginal discharge 
  • Vaginal bleeding (spotting) 

Many of the changes appear 1–3 days after birth and most resolve within the first two weeks. However, some symptoms can persist for months. 

The vagina is designed to be moist, so discharge at every age is normal. Typically you will see only small amounts in infants and young children, and it is usually clear, white, or slightly yellow and odorless.

Signs of infection 

Persistent vaginal discharge in children can be a sign of infection. Parents may notice a change in their daughter’s vaginal discharge during toilet training. Teaching your daughter proper wiping technique (front to back) requires patience and practice. It’s easy to see why “toddlers-in-training” are predisposed to infection from bacteria in their stool. Less common are vaginal infections due to streptococcus, bacteria commonly found on the skin. Use of antibiotics for ear, nose, or throat infections can also increase the risk for vaginal yeast (fungal) infection. Plus any small object in the vagina (such as a clump of toilet paper) can cause an increase in vaginal secretions. In rare cases, an increase in vaginal discharge can be a sign of sexual abuse. 

Should any of the following changes in your child’s vaginal discharge occur, contact your child’s health care provider right away: 

  • Discolored discharge (red, green, or gray) 
  • An increased amount of discharge 
  • An odor to the discharge 
  • Itchiness or redness around the vagina 

A simple test can determine if your child has a bacterial or fungal infection. If necessary, your child’s doctor can recommend an antibiotic or an antifungal medication. 

Meanwhile, a home remedy for a child whose vagina is red and irritated? Eliminate soapy baths. Bubble baths or harsh soaps can cause vaginal irritation and discharge and should be avoided. Bathe your child in clean, lukewarm water and use soap sparingly. Apply a diaper rash ointment to the affected area to reduce itching, soothe irritation, and promote healing.

Last updated June 9, 2020

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