Avoid This Underwear Mistake If You Don't Want An Infection

Have you ever wondered why we wear underwear? Just like donning your shirt or pants, you might not think too much about the why since it's just part of your daily routine. However, underwear provides the distinct function of protecting your body from the chafing of clothing and the environment. It also protects your outer clothing from any bodily secretions, per Health News.

One of the main functions of underwear, though, is to protect your genitals from infection. Properly worn underwear is like your last line of defense against invaders. But what happens when the article you wear for protection is the very thing causing the infection? Many people make underwear mistakes that can open the door to bacteria and fungal infections on the genitals and breasts.

In fact, wearing your underwear at night, choosing the wrong material, sitting in sweaty underwear, and wearing too tight underwear can all open you up to fungal and bacterial infections. Aside from avoiding these common mistakes, there are plenty of tips for keeping infections at bay.

Ditch the undies at night

Sleeping in your underwear is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. This is especially true if they're a bit on the tight side. According to Healthline, bacteria thrive in warm environments, which is what your underwear creates at night. Additionally, many people succumb to night sweats, where you wake up soaked in moisture. This condition can happen for a variety of reasons, including hormonal fluctuations, anxiety, and even certain medications, per the NHS. Sweat and warmth create the perfect storm for bacteria to grow and multiply, which may lead to a thrush infection.

Thrush is caused by candida, which naturally lives on the body in small numbers. But, when given the right environment, it can grow and multiply, leading to a yeast infection, as Health Direct details. Symptoms include a red, itchy rash and discharge. Better Health confirms that about 75% of women will have a vaginal thrush infection at some point in their lives. Ditching the underwear and going commando at night can give your genitals a nice breather and allow sweat to evaporate rather than getting trapped in the material.

Popular Science also notes that sleeping naked can be beneficial too. Sex educator and relationship expert Aditya Kashyap Mishra informed the outlet that removing your clothing allows air to circulate and reduces fungal infections due to microorganism buildup. It also helps to keep your private areas from getting overheated, which should help you sleep better. 

Steer clear of non-breathable fabrics

Everyone loves cute, fashionable undies for a little sexy time or a night out on the town. But they aren't designed to be worn every day. Choosing breathable fabrics, like cotton, is essential to keep everything clean and fungus-free. As Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones, board-certified OB-GYN, told Healthline, "The vulva is a very sensitive and delicate area, similar to the lips on your face. You want to treat [it] gently." She also noted, "You want your underwear to gently absorb any extra moisture." Synthetic materials work to trap the moisture in. 

Planned Parenthood also points out that underwear designed to keep you dry works to keep the pH of the vagina balanced, which is good for the naturally occurring bacteria there — especially since an imbalance can lead to an infection like vaginosis, which is an overgrowth of anaerobes, or bad bacteria, in the vagina. Symptoms include vaginal itching, burning when you pee, and a foul-smelling odor, per the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, Oprah Daily suggests that if you like to go for the frills with your undies, look for ones with a cotton crotch area.

Avoid underwear that's too tight

Cotton will keep things dry and cool, but you also need underwear that fits properly. Underwear that is too tight can cause chafing and openings in the skin allow bacteria to enter. Finding a breathable pair of undies that fit you well works best since they expand and contract with your skin and movements. Avoiding underwear that's too tight goes double for bras, too.

It can be hard to know if you're wearing the wrong size, but your bra will give you a few hints that things are a bit off. First of all, it'll be digging into your skin. As Heather Downes, MD, board-certified dermatologist, warned Healthline, "When tight clothing rubs the skin, it can cause excess sweating as well as irritation and inflammation of hair follicles. Not only that, bacteria and/or fungus on the surface of the skin can more easily penetrate into these hair follicles, causing infection."

You'll also notice that you must constantly adjust things to keep them fitting right and in place. An ill-fitting bra can cause pain in the breasts, nipples, back, and neck, and dig into the shoulders, per WebMD. Downs also advised Healthline, "What I see [...] in my practice are tight bra straps that rub on benign skin lesions such as seborrheic keratoses and moles. These lesions can then swell or bleed and can feel painful." Making sure your underwear fits properly will save you a lot of discomfort.

Don't sit in sweaty underwear

You had a great workout session at the gym that ran a little over your usual time, leaving no time to change. Sitting in your sweaty workout clothes seems okay since things dry off eventually. But sitting in sweaty underwear is a big no-no if you're trying to avoid an infection. There are a few problems that come into play here. First, your workout gear is typically tight and made of mostly spandex material. Sitting around in it gives fungal infections, like jock itch, free reign.

Jock itch is a fungal rash on the groin and inner thighs common in people that sweat a lot. It loves to grow in moist areas and can quickly spread from person to person from contaminated clothing or towels, per the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include itching, a rash, and scaly skin. Once this crotch itch takes hold, an antifungal cream is required to kick it out of your nether regions. Business Insider recommends showering and changing after a workout to avoid this infection.

Likewise, vulvovaginal expert Jen Gunter, M.D. clarified to Glamour that sweaty underwear can also lead to a jock itch-like infection called intertrigo in women. This skin condition causes a red rash from sweat and friction, opening the area up to secondary infections. So, when it comes to underwear, keep it clean, always choose a breathable fabric, and when you're settling in for the night, forego it altogether.