Dear Dr Mitchell,
I have often heard that women in particular should hang their underwear in the sun to guard against infection. I live in an apartment and I am not comfortable with the idea of placing my underwear on the clothes line for all to see. As such, I hang them in my bathroom. Is this a bad thing? Will I get an infection? What's the benefit of placing them outside in the sun, and can I receive the same benefit by washing them in warm water and hanging them indoors?
It is usually advised that women who suffer from recurrent yeast infections should hang their underwear in the sun to reduce the risk of recurrent infection. Fungus tends to thrive in cold, dark, damp areas. Putting the underwear in the sunshine helps to reduce the risk of fungal infections. Ironing the underwear or using hot water to wash them does not really achieve the same effect as putting them in the sun.
If you have not been having recurrent yeast infections, you will not be at any significant risk of developing an infection by hanging your underwear in the bathroom. The important thing to do is to wash your underwear properly and bathe twice daily. You should also avoid douching, the use of scented pantyshields and scented body wash on the vulva and vaginal areas.
You should certainly avoid putting chemicals, sprays and foreign bodies in the vagina since this increases your risk of infections, especially vaginosis. If you suffer from recurrent infections, then you should get a proper check done by your gynaecologist or family doctor. This should include a vaginal swab, Pap smear and screening for diabetes mellitus and HIV. Your sexual partner should also be screened and treated. Practising safe sex and using a condom all the time will definitely reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.