Over a period of 33 months in a paediatric accident and emergency department, the clinical pattern and possible causes of vulvovaginitis were studied prospectively in 200 girls presenting with genital discharge, irritation, pain, or redness. The major causes were poor hygiene and threadworms. The suspicion of sexual abuse arose in a few girls but no organisms of sexually transmitted disease were found. Urinary symptoms were common but only 20 patients had a significant bacteriuria and 40 had sterile pyuria. Specific skin problems occurred in 28 cases. Simple measures to improve hygiene and treatment of threadworms gave effective relief. Genital irritation caused urinary symptoms with no clinical evidence of infection, and it is advised that antibiotic treatment should await urine culture. Specific skin problems require help from a dermatologist. The possibility of sexual abuse must be considered especially if the vulvovaginitis is persistent or recurrent after adequate treatment.
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