Intimate health

WHAT IS INTIMATE HEALTH?

Intimate health refers to the different aspects of a person's reproductive or sexual health. This may also be used to refer to different health conditions that affect genitalia or reproductive organs.


Let’s help keep you happy and healthy ‘down there’. From symptoms and treatments for common intimate health conditions, to advice, services and products that can help, we’ve got you covered.

Good hygiene practices, including taking care of your intimate health, can help reduce the risk of problems, such as irritation and certain types of infections. However, just like the rest of your body, every now and then things may happen that need addressing.


Find out more about the signs and symptoms of some common health conditions, including when self-care may be appropriate and when to seek advice from a healthcare professional. 

INTIMATE HEALTH BRANDS

NOTE: This article/page uses the terms ‘male/man/men’ and/or ‘female/woman/women’. Please note, this is in reference to the sex assigned at birth.

TYPES OF INTIMATE CONDITIONS & WHAT MIGHT HELP

Your intimate health is not something to be embarrassed about and it is not a ‘taboo topic’. It is important that you are familiar with your intimate health.


We’ll talk you through some of the most common intimate conditions, and what might help them. 

Thrush is a common infection that can affect men and women. It’s not usually something to worry about, although it can be quite uncomfortable. Thrush can be passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. 


You can be more likely to get thrush if you’re pregnant, have a weakened immune system, are taking antibiotics or having hormone replacement therapy (HRT). 


Common thrush symptoms in women are:

• White vaginal discharge that does not usually smell
• Itchy or sore vagina
• Discomfort such as soreness or stinging during sex
• Soreness and stinging when you urinate


Common thrush symptoms in men are:

• Irritation, burning or redness around the penis and foreskin
• White discharge (like cottage cheese)

• An unpleasant smell
• Difficulty pulling back the foreskin


How to help treat thrush at home:
• Don’t use soap or shower gel to wash the affected area - try water and an emollient cream instead
• Be sure to dry the area thoroughly after washing (note: use your own towel and don't share your towel with someone else)
• Avoid tight underwear or tights, and opt for cotton underwear
• If you’re finding sex uncomfortable, avoid it until the thrush has cleared 


Thrush can be treated with over-the-counter medicines such as Boots Thrush 150mg Capsule*, which contains fluconazole and is an oral treatment for thrush, or Boots Pharmaceuticals Thrush 1% w/w Cream*, which contains clotrimazole and provides effective relief of the external symptoms of thrush. Speak to a pharmacist about your symptoms to help find the right treatment for you. Internal and external thrush symptoms can be treated using products specifically for that area so always read the product information to understand what the product will treat. Internal thrush treatments are only suitable for women or those assigned female at birth.


Speak to your GP if:

• You have the symptoms of thrush for the first time

• You're under 16 or over 60 years of age

• Your thrush keeps coming back (more than four times in 12 months)

• Your treatment has not worked

• You're pregnant or breastfeeding

• You have thrush and a weakened immune system (for example, because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy)


Some people are unsure whether they have thrush or another condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV), which you can read more about below. Boots Dual Action Thrush and BV Pessaries are clinically proven to treat either infection safely and effectively. This treatment contains a 7-day course of vaginal pessaries to treat thrush and bacterial vaginosis whilst preventing the recurrence of symptoms.

*Always read the label.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of unusual vaginal discharge. BV is a bacterial infection of the vagina. You can be more likely to get BV if you’re sexually active, have an IUD (intrauterine device, also known as intrauterine contraceptive device or coil) or use perfumed products in or around the vagina. The good news is, it’s usually easily treated and there are things you can do at home to help ease the symptoms of BV. 


BV isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but it can increase your chances of getting an STI, so it’s important to practise safe sex and use condoms if you’re sexually active. 


Symptoms of BV include:

• Unusual vaginal discharge, particularly after sex. This may have a strong fishy smell.
• A change to the colour and consistency of discharge, such as becoming thin, watery discharge.


BV doesn’t usually cause soreness or itching, and some people may have no symptoms at all. 


BV is usually treated with antibiotic tablets, gels or creams. It's important to get tested for STIs so that these can be ruled out. Your GP or sexual health clinic can provide access to testing and treatment or for treatment only you could consider the Boots Online Doctor Bacterial Vaginosis Service*. If you’re pregnant and think you may have BV, speak to your GP or midwife straight away. 


There are things you can do at home to help with symptoms of BV, including: 

• Washing with water and plain soap, rather than perfumed products
• Taking showers instead of having baths and avoiding using things like bubble bath
• Not using vaginal washes, deodorants or douches
• Using gentle laundry detergents to wash your clothes
• Stop smoking - speak to a pharmacist or healthcare professional for advice about nicotine replacement therapy, which may help you to quit smoking. Alternatively, you could consider Boots Online Doctor Stop Smoking Treatment Service.


Take a look at our range of products that can help with the symptoms of BV. You can read more about the causes, symptoms and treatment options for bacterial vaginosis in our article on BV


Some people are unsure whether they have BV or another condition called thrush, which you can read about above. Boots Dual Action Thrush and BV Pessaries are clinically proven to treat either infection effectively. This treatment contains a 7-day course of vaginal pessaries to treat thrush and BV whilst preventing the recurrence of symptoms.

Cystitis is a urinary tract infection (UTI). It affects the bladder and can affect anyone but is particularly common in females. 


Symptoms of cystitis in adults include:

• Pain, burning or stinging when you urinate.
• Feeling the need to urinate more often or more urgently than normal.
• Urine that's dark, cloudy or strong smelling.
• Pain in your lower tummy.


Self-care tips for cystitis

• If suitable for you, take paracetamol to help reduce discomfort.
• Drink plenty of fluids – water is best (avoid things like fruit juice, coffee and alcohol as these can irritate your bladder).
• Use a hot water bottle to help soothe discomfort in your lower belly.
• Avoid having sex.
• Try to urinate as frequently as possible.


Cystitis usually gets better by itself, although there are some things you can do at home that may help. Speak to a pharmacist about treatment for cystitis as there are over-the-counter medicines that some people find help with cystitis. Sometimes cystitis will need to be treated with antibiotics. If your symptoms are getting worse or have not improved after two to three days of self-care, speak to a healthcare professional for advice or consider Boots Online Doctor Cystitis Treatment Service* for advice and, if appropriate, treatment available for collection in-store on the same day. 


Speak to a healthcare professional if you are male or were assigned male at birth and think you may have cystitis. 


You can read our features to find out more about what cystitis is and our top tips for helping prevent cystitis

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), usually spread through having sex without a condom, or sharing sex toys. It’s caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). Symptoms of trichomoniasis are similar to symptoms of many other STIs, making it difficult to diagnose without a test. 


Symptoms of trichomoniasis usually develop within a few weeks of infection, although up to half of all people will not show any symptoms. 


Symptoms of trichomoniasis in females include: 

• Abnormal vaginal discharge (this may be thick, thin or frothy and yellowy-green).
• More discharge than normal, which may smell unpleasant or fishy.
• Soreness, swelling and itchiness around the vagina, and sometimes the inner thighs. 
• Pain or discomfort when urinating or during sex.


Symptoms of trichomoniasis in males include:

• Pain when urinating or ejaculating.
• Needing to urinate more often than usual.
• Thin, white discharge from the penis.
• Soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis or foreskin.


If you have symptoms of trichomoniasis or think you may have trichomoniasis, speak to your GP or visit a sexual health clinic. You can access free sexual health advice, tests and treatment from your local NHS sexual health clinic or GP. Alternatively, you can order a test kit which can test for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis from the Boots Online Doctor Testing Services.*


If you use a Boots Online Doctor STI Test Kit and test positive for trichomoniasis and are not showing symptoms of an infection, you may be able to access treatment for trichomoniasis via the Boots Online Doctor Trichomoniasis Treatment Service*. If you do not use the Boots Online Doctor At-Home Test Kit but test positive using an alternative test, you must get treatment from your GP or NHS sexual health clinic. It’s important to get treated because untreated trichomoniasis can leave you vulnerable to other STIs and health issues. You should also make sure your sexual partners are tested and, if required, treated, and you must also avoid sex until the infection has cleared.


You can read more about some of the most common types of STIs here

Most people with chlamydia don’t realise they have it, which is why in England, if you are a sexually active person that is under 25 years of age, it’s recommended that you have a chlamydia test once per year, and when you have sex with a new or casual partner. 


Symptoms of chlamydia include:

• Pain when urinating.
• Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or bottom.
• In females, pain in the tummy, bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods.
• In males, pain and swelling in the testicles.


If you think you have symptoms of chlamydia or think you may have chlamydia you should see your GP or visit your local sexual health clinic. Alternatively, you can find out if you have chlamydia by using a testing kit available from Boots Online Doctor Testing Services.*


If you use a Boots Online Doctor At-Home Test Kit and test positive for chlamydia and are not showing symptoms, you may be able to access treatment for chlamydia via the Boots Online Doctor Chlamydia Treatment Service*. If you do not use a Boots Online Doctor At-Home Test Kit but test positive using an alternative test, you must get treatment from your GP or NHS sexual health clinic. It's important you get treated because untreated chlamydia can leave you vulnerable to other STIs and health issues. You should also make sure your sexual partners are tested and, if required, treated, and you must also avoid sex until the infection has cleared. 


You can read more about some of the most common types of STIs here

Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be caught through having vaginal or anal sex without a condom, sharing sex toys or, less commonly, oral sex. 


Symptoms of genital warts include:

• Painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or bottom.

• Itching or bleeding from your vagina, penis or bottom.

• A change to the normal flow of your urine (for example, a sideways flow) that doesn’t go away.


If you or your partner have genital warts, you’ll need treatment, even if you do not have symptoms, to help remove the warts and stop them from spreading or being passed on. It may take weeks or months for the treatment to work, and the warts may come back. In some people, the treatment may not work. 


You can access treatment from your GP, a sexual health clinic. Alternatively, some types of treatment for genital warts are available through the Boots Online Doctor Genital Wart Treatment.*


You can read more about some of the most common types of STIs here.

Some women will experience vaginal dryness at some point in their lives. It’s quite common, and there are things you can do at home to help. 


Vaginal dryness can be caused by a change in hormone levels, which can happen if you:

• Are going through the menopause.
• Are receiving cancer treatment.
• Have had a hysterectomy.
• Are breastfeeding.
• Are taking a contraceptive pill or certain types of anti-depressant medication.


Things like some perfumed soaps, not being aroused during sex or underlying conditions such as diabetes can also cause vaginal dryness. 


Symptoms of vaginal dryness include:

• Feeling sore or itchy in and around your vagina.
• Pain or discomfort during sexual activity.
• Needing to urinate more often than usual.

Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) may be experienced if you have vaginal dryness.


Ways to help treat vaginal dryness at home:

• Apply vaginal moisturisers such as Boots Vaginal Moisturiser inside your vagina (it is important to only use creams or lotions that are specifically for the vagina).
• Apply a water-based lubricant in and around your vagina, if your partner is male, on their penis, or fingers or on any sex toys, before sex.
• Try foreplay to get you more aroused and ready for sex.
• Don’t use perfumed soaps or shower gels.
• If your vaginal dryness is due to menopause, speak to your GP, or you may be able to access prescription-only treatment available from Boots Online Doctor Vaginal Dryness Service*.

Gina 10 Micrograms Vaginal Tablets (HRT) is available to purchase from selected Boots pharmacies or via boots.com*.


Take a look at our range of products that can help with vaginal dryness, and read our article on vaginal dryness to find out more about the symptoms of vaginal dryness and how to help ease them. 


If your vaginal dryness doesn’t improve, or you’re experiencing other symptoms such as unusual discharge or bleeding after sex or in between your periods, speak to your GP. 

*Gina 10 Micrograms Vaginal Tablets (HRT) - For treatment and relief of vaginal symptoms post-menopause in people aged 50 years and older who have not had a period for at least 1 year. Contains estradiol. Always read the label. Supply is subject to pharmacist approval. 

If you have any concerning symptoms or if something doesn’t feel right ‘down there’, it’s important to get checked out as soon as possible. Tests for things like STIs and other intimate health conditions are often quick and easy, and treatment can be arranged and started as soon as you get your results.


Your GP or sexual health clinic should also be able to offer the relevant tests if you have any symptoms relating to your intimate health. Alternatively, Boots Online Doctor offers convenient, discreet testing and treatment options for a variety of intimate health conditions in just a few clicks.* 


Boots Online Doctor has test kits available for use at home for STIs including chlamydia, HIV and gonorrhoea. Boots also has test kits available for conditions such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis.


All females, or those assigned female at birth, aged 25 to 64 should go for a regular NHS cervical screening. You’ll be invited by letter to make an appointment. Often called a smear test, cervical screening is a test that checks the health of your cervix (the opening to your womb from your vagina) to help prevent cervical cancer. Contact your GP if you are eligible for a smear test and haven't had one. To find out more from the NHS click here.

Condoms are 98% effective as a method to prevent pregnancy when used correctly. They also help protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and other STIs, which can be passed on during sex. 


Condoms are designed to be used during vaginal, anal and oral sex. They come in a range of sizes, shapes and flavours, so they can be an enjoyable part of sex. 


Take a look at our range of condoms here

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a common group of viruses that don’t usually cause problems for most people. However, some types of HPV can cause genital warts or cancer. Most people will get some type of HPV at some point in their lives. Lots of people with HPV won’t notice any symptoms or problems, and most people who have it do not know.


HPV is spread through genital skin-to-skin contact, vaginal, anal or oral sex, or sharing sex toys.


The Boots HPV Vaccination Service** offers protection against nine types of HPV and is suitable for adults and children aged 12 to 45 years old inclusive, subject to eligibility criteria – find out more about the service and how to book an appointment here. Children aged 12 to 13 years (born after 1 September 2006) are offered the HPV vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination programme. If you’re eligible and miss the HPV vaccine offered in Year 8 at school, it’s available for free on the NHS up until your 25th birthday.

Boots has a range of treatments for intimate health conditions from thrush to cystitis. Take a look at the range of sexual health and women’s health services you can access from the comfort of your own home.

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INTIMATE HEALTH PRODUCTS

Read NHS information on thrush symptoms, causes & treatments

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The symptoms of an STI will differ depending on the type of infection you’re experiencing. Some STIs will not have any symptoms, but symptoms of an STI can include:

  • An unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Pain when peeing
  • Lumps or skin growths around the genitals or bottom (anus)
  • A rash
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Itchy genitals or anus
  • Blisters and sores around your genitals or anus
  • Warts around your genitals or anus
  • Warts in your mouth or throat, but this is very rare


It can help to research common STIs and familiarise yourself with the symptoms. You can find out more here.


The only way to find out for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. If you or your sexual partner have symptoms of an STI, you’re worried after having sex without a condom, or you’re pregnant with symptoms of an STI, it’s important to visit your GP or a sexual health clinic as soon as possible to get tested and treated if appropriate. Alternatively, you can access home test kits for certain STIs through Boots Online Doctor.* 

In some cases, it can be possible to get tested and treated for certain STIs, without visiting your GP through services like Boots Online Doctor.


If you suspect you have an STI, you can order sexual health home test kits through Boots Online Doctor.* You can access tests for STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis. 


Simply order your test, collect your sample and return using the prepaid packaging. You’ll then be able to log in to access your results, two to three days after we receive your sample. 


Boots Online Doctor can also offer access to treatment for certain STIs if you’ve tested positive through our Boots Online Doctor Testing Service and you don’t have any symptoms.* If you have symptoms, or have tested positive using a test from another provider, you’ll need to visit your GP or a sexual health clinic for treatment. If you’ve been told you need treatment for an STI, it’s best to get tested for a range of STIs. 


Treatment through Boots Online Doctor is available for:


All you’ll need to do is fill out an online consultation form and make a payment. We’ll then review everything in as little as 24 hours and prescribe treatment if appropriate for you.* You can then pick up your treatment in-store or have it delivered to your door.


If Boots Online Doctor isn’t suitable for you, it’s important to visit your GP or sexual health clinic to treat your STI. 


You can find out more here

Thrush is usually caused by an overgrowth of a yeast fungus called candida albicans, which can cause itching and irritation around the vagina, and white, odourless vaginal discharge. BV is caused by an overgrowth of some bacteria in the vagina and can cause unusual vaginal discharge but normally it doesn’t cause any soreness or itching. 


Find out more about thrush and BV, and how to treat them here.

More healthcare advice, services & products. Your health, your way1

2 Access to prescription-only treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.


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*Access to test kits or treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.


**HPV Vaccination Service. Eligibility criteria and charges apply. In selected pharmacies, subject to availability.


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The language surrounding sex, gender, and sexuality is always evolving, and different people have different views on the words that should be used. Therefore, we only mention sex, gender or sexuality when it's relevant, such as when providing our customers with the correct health information and treatment they need. We try to follow the NHS guidance for healthcare providers. You can find that here.

Page last reviewed by Boots Pharmacy team on 31/01/2023

Intimate health doesn't need to be an awkward subject. Your intimate hygiene is important and Boots is here to help. Explore our range of intimate care advice, products and services for common issues. Boots can support with intimate health conditions which may include thrush, cystitis and some STIs.