Too shy to discuss your feminine health concerns at the travel clinic? Don’t fret, we’ve asked the experts, so take notes and enjoy the holiday!
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Q: I’ve heard that anti-malarial pills can trigger vaginal thrush. True?
A: There are three anti-malarial drugs: doxycycline, malarone and mefloquine. The first can cause candidiasis or vaginal thrush, says Dr Lim Poh Lian, senior consultant at the Department of Infectious Diseases and head of the Traveller’s Health & Vaccination Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. A cottage cheese-like discharge, itching and soreness are typical symptoms of infection.
If you choose to continue with this antibiotic, take fluconazole to counter thrush, says Dr Lim. You could also use anti-fungal cream or vaginal suppositories, adds Dr Paul Zakowich, an internal medicine specialist at the American International Clinic.
The other anti-malaria drugs are also not without side effects such as gastric discomfort (indigestion and heartburn), says Dr Zakowich. But what you should be concerned about is developing a skin reaction – a rash or hives – after taking an antibiotic as it could signal an allergy that can potentially become serious and even result in death.
See a doctor immediately for an accurate health diagnosis as it could have implications for the future – especially if you should ever need the same antibiotic to treat another infection.
Q: I have a history of urinary tract infections (UTIs). What can I do to avoid getting one again while abroad?
A: About 80 per cent of UTIs are caused by the bacteria, E.coli, that’s found in your own stools, says Dr Lim. To lower your risk of infection, it’s crucial to maintain good hygiene.
Always try to rinse with feminine wash after doing number two. If you don’t have access to clean water, bring feminine tissues along and make sure you wipe your genital area from front to back to reduce the chance of bacteria travelling from the anus to the urethra. And pack disposable undies if you’re travelling for an extended period. Never re-use underwear!
A final tip: Peeing after sex can also slash your odds of getting a UTI. This flushes out bacteria that may have been introduced to the urethra during intercourse, explains Dr Lim.
Q: I’m going camping and proper toilet facilities won’t be available. How do I postpone my period?
A: Oral contraceptives can be used to delay menstruation, says Dr Veronica Ventura, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at the American International Clinic.
Birth control pills work by manipulating your hormones so that the ovaries do not release eggs. They also change the cervical mucus and the uterus lining to prevent conception.
Following a 28-day cycle, these pills are typically taken in a 21/7 or 24/4 regimen. This involves either 21 or 24 days of active pills (hormone-containing) followed by seven or four days of hormone-free pills to allow for menstruation. To postpone a period, simply use the continuous method: Open a new pack and take the active pills after you complete one set of 21 or 24 pills.
Some women can go for three months or more on the active pills without a break, says Dr Ventura. However, many women start to spot or have breakthrough bleeding if they try to continue the active pills for too long. If you start to spot while trying the continuous method, it’s best to stop the pills for one week and allow menstruation, she adds.
If you’re new to oral contraceptives, take the pills at least a month before your planned vacation. Some women aren’t suitable candidates for birth control pills, so be sure to discuss your options with your gynaecologist, says Dr Ventura. You should always seek his or her advice before manipulating OCs.
Next: What to do if you’ve missed the pill.