How do I catch thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection usually caused by a fungus called candida and is also known as candidiasis. It usually lives harmlessly in the environment, on your skin, and in the vagina, but if there is an imbalance in your body's normal microorganisms the candida can multiply and cause symptoms. This can be affected by changes in your immune system such as being run down, taking antibiotics, and pregnancy.

Can men catch thrush?

Yes, men can develop thrush which can be treated with an antifungal cream such as Canesten or the oral antifungal fluconazole.

What are the symptoms of genital thrush?

Thrush causes redness and itching of the skin on the vulva and inside the vagina in women, and red spots on the tip of the penis in men and in more severe cases swelling and cracking of the skin. This is accompanied by a white discharge and sometimes discomfort on passing urine.

Can I catch thrush from having sex?

Thrush is not usually sexually transmitted but there is a possibility that if you have symptoms then you could pass this onto to your partner. It is therefore recommended to avoid sexual intercourse until symptoms have settled.

Can I get thrush from going swimming?

Swimming pools often contain chemicals to keep the water clean and safe. However these chemicals can alter the environment of the vagina and cause local irritation which increases your risk of developing thrush. Also long periods of the area being moist and warm act as risk factors for the development of the candida multiplying. The risk can be reduced by gently drying yourself after swimming and changing out of your swimming clothes as soon as you have finished swimming.

Do I need to treat my partner if I have thrush?

No, you do not need to treat your partner if they do not have any symptoms. However if you are getting multiple episodes of symptoms it is recommended to treat your partner as well in case they have the infection without symptoms as you may be passing it back and forth.

How do I treat thrush?

Thrush can be treated at home using an antifungal cream (clotrimazole or miconazole), or a one-off oral antifungal capsule (fluconazole), or a combination of both. There are also vaginal pessaries available for women.

There are also complementary therapies that may help such as applying live plain yogurt inside the vagina or on the vulva . This releases hydrogen peroxide which can kill candida and help treat the infection.

Thrush treatment

Which thrush treatment is most effective?

There are different treatment options and all should help resolve the symptoms of thrush. The oral antifungal tablet called fluconazole can sometimes be more effective and is a one-off dose. This can be used alongside the creams, and for women pessaries.

Should I use a combination of thrush treatments

A combination of treatment can help alleviate the symptoms more quickly where antifungal creams applied directly calms the itchiness or burning symptoms whilst the oral antifungal tablet eliminates thrush from the body.

Are there any foods or alcohol I should avoid when using treatment for thrush?

No, there are no foods that need to be avoided and alcohol does not affect thrush treatment.

Should I avoid sex if I have thrush?

There is a possibility of passing thrush onto your partner if you have symptoms so it is recommended to avoid sex until the symptoms have settled to reduce this risk. Clotrimazole cream and gyno-daktarin cream can also affect the latex in condoms, contraceptive caps, and diaphragms, and make them ineffective so you should use a different form of contraception whilst using clotrimazole or gyno-daktarin cream if having sexual intercourse and wanting to avoid pregnancy.

If my symptoms do not go away after treatment, what should I do?

Your symptoms should settle within 7 days of finishing treatment. If you are continuing to get symptoms then you should see your GP as your symptoms may be caused by another condition.

How can I prevent thrush coming back?

It may help to avoid using perfumed products or deodorants around your genital area and ensure you are completely dry after washing. After going to the toilet, wiping from front to back can help prevent transferring thrush from the bowel to the vagina. It is also recommended to wear cotton underwear, change sanitary protection regularly, and avoid tight-fitting jeans or tights. Having a healthy balanced diet will support your immune system which will also help.

What is recurring thrush?

If you have had 4 or more episodes of thrush in a year it is considered to be recurring thrush, and you should speak to your GP or a pharmacist about this.

Can I use thrush treatment when pregnant?

If you are pregnant then you should speak to your GP or midwife about treatment. You can use treatments that contain clotrimazole (Canesten) - such as the cream and pessary - but you should not take the oral capsule fluconazole, as this should be avoided during pregnancy.

Do fluconazole capsules contain lactose?

Yes, fluconazole capsules contain lactose.

I am over 65 - why can't I buy thrush products from Dr Fox?

Dr Fox does not provide thrush treatments for people over 65 for several reasons:

  • In women over 65, there is a possibility of other causes of vaginal irritation including postmenopausal causes. An examination is often necessary to help with diagnosis. As an internet based service Dr Fox cannot offer this.
  • Canesten vaginal pessaries often do not dissolve and so are ineffective in the drier postmenopausal vaginal environment.
  • The manufacturers of vaginal Canesten products suggest consulting your doctor before use if you are over 60 years of age.
  • Caution is recommended by the manufacturers of fluconazole, if you have liver or kidney problems. Hidden kidney problems are more likely as you get older.

Thrush treatment

This page written and reviewed by doctors

Dr Claire Pugh

Authored 05 August 2021 by Dr Claire Pugh
MB ChB University of Liverpool 2000. NHS GP and GP appraiser in Bristol. GMC no. 4712688

Reviewed by Dr A. Wood, Dr B. Babor
Last reviewed 06 August 2021
Last updated 19 January 2024
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