How To Stay Healthy When You're Roughing It

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We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: how to keep your vagina clean and healthy while camping.

Q: I’m dating this guy who is way more outdoorsy than me and he’s going to take me on a week-long camping trip for our anniversary. I’m really excited, but I’m also nervous because I literally haven’t been camping since I was 12. I’m also super prone to yeast infection, UTIs, pretty much you name it. Also, I’m scheduled to get my period while we’re out there, which is stressful because part of why we’re going out there is to have sex in the woods! Is there anything I can bring with me or do while out there to make sure I stay healthy? Thanks!

A: Good question! The reality is that vaginas are prone to infection and other challenges no matter where they may roam. However, it’s particularly difficult when you are feeling uncomfortable and there isn’t a pharmacy for miles. And it is true that if you’re wandering the great outdoors, you’re more likely to come into contact with some microbes your body isn’t used to, which can lead to vaginal infection. Let's start with an overview of your risks — and then move on to what you can do to Be Prepared.

What Can I Get In The Wilderness?

The short answer is: everything you can get in the comfort of your own home. Except it feels worse, because you’re far from those comforts. Here are the big ones to keep in mind.

1. A Bacterial Infection

When it comes to vaginas, it’s all about balance. You have lots of bacteria inside your vagina right now, in perfect balance. If that balance gets out of whack, you could end up with a vaginal infection like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. If you are feeling itchy and your discharge is changing in color, texture, or odor, you might have one of these.

2. A Urinary Tract Infection

Bacteria can get into your urinary tract (the tube you pee out of) through sex — or just daily living. If you notice that peeing is painful, your urine is deeper in color or cloudier than usual, or you are experiencing cramps in your tummy, you might have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

3. An Allergic Reaction

All manner of things can cause allergic reactions to the tender skin that makes up your vagina. But in the wilderness, special ones to look out for are poisoned oak or poisoned ivy. If your vagina is red and itchy and it hurts to pee, then you may be dealing with an allergic reaction.

4. Your Period

Luckily, you can usually know in advance if you’re going to get your period on a camping trip. If you’re using oral birth control and you know you’re scheduled to get your period during a trip, you can just continue to take your pill to skip your period. But if you don’t want to trick your body into not menstruating or if you’re on a longer trip, you’re going to end up with your period while in the wilderness.

What Can I Bring With Me To Help?

Packing as a conscious, forward-thinking vagina-owner, what can you bring along to limit any potential discomfort? Here are some things you might want to include in your knapsack.

1. Gentle, Fragrance-Free Soap And Wet Wipes

You’re going to want to wash yourself out there, so make sure you bring soap and wet wipes that are compatible with pussies! This means it should be gentle and fragrance-free. Perfumed soaps or cleaners can mess with the normal, healthy pH balance in your vagina, causing infection.

2. D-Mannose or Cranberry Pills

If you’re prone to UTIs (or are just worried you might get one on your journey), bring along some cranberry or d-mannose pills and take them daily to prevent infection. The metabolites present in cranberries stop the bacteria E. coli from adhering to other bacteria, which in turn stops it from multiplying and turning into an infection in your urinary tract. D-mannose is an herbal supplement not many people know about — but it’s awesome! It’s a sugar that naturally occurs in a bunch of fruits, including cranberries and apples. D-mannose bind to E. coli so it can’t stick to your urinary system walls, allowing your urine to wash it away.

3. Yeast Infection Cures

If you’re worried about yeast infections, it may be a good idea to buy some yeast infection creams or suppositories to have on hand. If you want to go more natural, you can bring a head of garlic — putting a clove of garlic up your vagina can help combat the yeast. (It will smell intense though, so that’s up to you.) Apple cider vinegar is another great option, as are boric acid suppositories. Bring whatever you can carry!

4. Menstrual Products

If you think you might get your period on your trip, make sure to bring enough menstrual materials. If you’re bringing tampons or pads, it’s a good idea to also pack a trash ziplock so you can seal in the smell of your used products, because it can get rank pretty fast (and also, bears!). Throwing a bit of baking soda inside will help with the smell. And if you want to minimize your trash, consider using a menstrual cup — you can wear it for longer than a tampon, and as long as you’re able to keep it clean, it’s a great option! Period panties might also make things easier.

5. Painkillers

If you get cramps, another thing to bring is something to alleviate your pain. No one likes hiking when they feel like they’re being constantly stabbed in the uterus. Anti-inflammatories are generally a good thing to have in your First Aid Kit, but pack some extras if you know this might be a particularly painful week for you.

6. Loose, Cotton Panties

Your vagina is happiest when it’s dry and has room to breathe. So all the time, but particularly when you’re being super active hiking or gallivanting around, it’s a good idea to wear loose cotton panties. Cotton dries really fast and will keep your vagina dry and clean.

7. Calamine Lotion

Hopefully, you won't need to use this. But if you’re going somewhere with either poison oak or poison ivy, bring along some calamine lotion to deal with itching. It’s safe to put on the external parts of your vagina.

What Can I Do Once I'm Out There?

OK, so you're all packed and ready to go. What can you do while you're actually camping to make sure you stay healthy?

1. Keep Yourself Hydrated

Your whole body needs hydration, so drinking water is a good idea overall. Water specifically makes you pee more, which is helpful in flushing out any unwanted bacteria from your urinary tract and the opening of your vagina. So if you’re worried about UTIs, make sure you drink lots of water.

2. Keep Your Vagina Clean

Your vagina is great at cleaning itself, but it’s a good idea to wash yourself off regularly to help out — particularly after a long, sweaty hike, a swim in a local stream, or a roll in the desert dust. Daily is ideal, so grab that fragrance-free soap you packed and wash off your special parts. If you're not near place to wash, that's where wet wipes come in handy, too (especially after sex). Just make sure your hands are clean beforehand!

3. Keep Your Vagina Dry

After you wash your vagina, make sure you dry it off. Remember that your pussy likes it best when it’s clean AND dry. Remember to pack toilet paper or a pee rag. In a pinch, leaves, rocks, or moss can even do the trick.

4. Pee After Sex (Even If It's Cold And Dark Outside)

Sex in the wilderness is one of the great glories of the world. But it can be really annoying to leave your warm safe tent and go find a bush to pee on in the post-coital haze. However, it’s super important to pee after sex — always, but definitely when you’re in the wild. Peeing flushes out any of the bacteria that may have ended up in your urethra during the bump and grind of sex, and if you don’t get this bacteria out of your system, you could end up with a UTI.

5. Don’t Have Sex If You’re Not Feeling Well

If you are really feeling off down there (I’m talking UTI, infection, allergic reaction, whatever) it may be a good idea to hold off on sex until you feel better. Sex will most likely increase any irritation you may be feeling, and if your problem is bacterial it could spread to your partner!

The Bottom Line

If you get back from your trip and you're feeling off, go to your doctor to get checked out. Even if you are feeling better, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know what you think you had while you were out in the woods/desert/wherever, so she can check you to make sure you really are all good.

Roughing it while owning a vagina requires some consideration to make sure you stay healthy on your adventure, but if you bring everything you need and follow these tips you should be just fine. Have a fantastic time!

Images: chpua/E+/Getty Images; Giphy