Can you treat vaginitis at home?

Yes, there are options to treat vaginitis at home. However, if you’re experiencing your first ever symptoms of vaginitis, start by consulting with a clinician to ensure you get an accurate diagnosis. 

While there are over-the-counter tests you can take at home to distinguish between BV and a yeast infection, they are simply indicators of pH level, and are not as definitive as the tests performed by a clinician, which not only assess for pH but also evaluate for the actual presence of microbial species. For that reason, it’s best to visit your clinician when you first experience symptoms, so that you can rest assured that you know what’s going on and receive the proper treatment. 

That being said, if this isn’t your first case of vaginitis and you feel confidently familiar with your symptoms, one over-the-counter treatment option to consider for both yeast infections and BV is boric acid, which works by restoring a healthy vaginal pH balance. Boric acid suppositories (prefilled with 600 mg of boric acid) can be inserted vaginally at night for two weeks when treating a yeast infection, and for three weeks when treating BV. If vaginal irritation develops, it's ok to try inserting boric acid every other night rather than nightly. Boric acid is safe when used this way, but it is fatal if ingested, so it should be kept out of reach of children and pets. 

Inserting other ingredients–like yogurt, garlic, tea tree oil, or hydrogen peroxide–can further upset the pH and bacterial balance of the vagina and make things worse. Some women who experience frequent yeast or BV find that inserting a boric acid capsule twice weekly on an ongoing basis helps to prevent recurrent symptoms.

Another over-the-counter option for preventive care is taking probiotics. Some people discover that daily probiotic supplementation–or even just eating one yogurt a day–can help to maintain the balance of good bacteria and prevent recurrent infections of both yeast and BV.

If boric acid isn't your thing and it's too late for prevention, there are extremely effective vaginitis treatment options available by prescription. For bacterial vaginosis, antibiotic therapy is appropriate. The first-line antibiotic for BV treatment is metronidazole, which can be prescribed in gel suppository form or as an oral pill. 

For yeast, fluconazole (Diflucan) is an oral pill that typically requires only one dose for complete treatment. Of note, the 7-day version of miconazole antifungal cream has been shown to have equal efficacy and is available over-the-counter.

In some cases, BV and yeast improve without treatment. For some women, having a period can reset the balance and resolve symptoms, so if your symptoms are mild, you might consider waiting to see if your cycle clears away the symptoms of vaginitis. But if you're somebody who knows that a period isn't going to clear it up for you, then there's no reason to wait to seek treatment. Neither BV nor a yeast infection is dangerous unless you are pregnant. If you're pregnant and have symptoms of BV, you should seek treatment right away, as studies have shown that untreated BV increases the risk of preterm labor.

Yeast and/or BV can be present without any symptoms at all. Sometimes, the presence of bacteria or yeast are noted on a pap report, even though a person may have had no symptoms of vaginitis. Unless that person is pregnant, there's really no need to treat. In most cases, the infection doesn't hang around for too long and will eventually go away. If symptoms develop in the meantime, a course of treatment is then warranted.