A yeast infection is a term commonly used to describe a vaginal infection caused by Candida, a fungus naturally found in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. This infection, also known as candidiasis, can be triggered by a change in hormones, such as in pregnancy, or a condition or situation where the Candida is allowed to multiply and build up in the vagina. If you have a yeast infection, you may wonder if you can still enjoy a swim. While there are some swimming-related tips and precautions, the good news is that you can still enjoy this activity even if you have this common infection.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Yeast Infections and Swimming

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75 percent of women have suffered from at least one yeast infection during their lifetime 2. Symptoms include:

  • vaginal itching
  • burning
  • irritation
  • painful sexual intercourse
  • redness
  • a thick
  • white
  • cottage cheese-like discharge

In addition to the increased risk of candidiasis during pregnancy, women who have diabetes or a weakened immune system, or women who have recently taken antibiotics are more likely to experience this yeast overgrowth. However, swimming is not associated with an increased risk of yeast infections, and it is not contagious so you won’t get it -- or catch it from other swimmers.

Yeast Infections and Swimsuits

Although swimming won’t cause a yeast infection, wearing a wet bathing suit for an extended period of time does increase the risk of yeast overgrowth. Tight-fitting or damp clothing creates an optimal environment for yeast growth, so you may be able to prevent this condition by changing into clean, dry clothing after you are finished swimming.

Yeast Infection Prevention

Other ways to curb the risk of developing a yeast infection include wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight underwear that restricts air flow. If you wear pantyhose, choose styles with a cotton crotch. Also, change out of sweaty or damp exercise clothes as soon as you can after your workout. Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, and if you have diabetes -- keep your blood sugars in range.

Yeast Infection Prevention

Although swimming does not cause a yeast infection, the chlorinated water from swimming pools can cause irritation in sensitive areas including the vulva, or exterior female sexual organs. Vulvodynia is ongoing pain in the vulvar area which causes burning, soreness, itching and irritation -- symptoms similar to a yeast infection. While the cause of this condition is often unknown, symptoms can be aggravated by tight fitting swimsuits, chlorinated water or the heat of hot tubs.

Warnings and Precautions

Antifungal creams and vaginal suppositories are standard therapies for treating vaginal yeast infections. Mild infections may only need a single dose to treat, while the course of therapy may run 7 days. According to the CDC, this treatment is successful in 80 to 90 percent of infections, while other infections are more resistant to common treatment. Even though antifungal treatments are available as over-the-counter treatments, it’s important to be sure you have a yeast infection before you treat it as such. Prior to treatment, talk to your doctor. If you have treated a yeast infection and your symptoms don't go away, see your doctor for evaluation and treatment recommendations.