Thrush is a common fungal infection that affects both men & women. To help prevent thrush, it's important to maintain good hygiene practices. If you suspect you have thrush, Boots offers different thrush treatment options. With medication, the thrush should clear up within a week but if it doesn’t, you should visit your GP.

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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.

Image showing a person experiencing discomfort due to thrush

Symptoms of thrush

    Thrush can cause discomfort, itching, and pain, and may be accompanied by discharge or a rash. In women, thrush can cause common symptoms such as:

  • An itchy vagina 
  • Soreness around the entrance of your vagina (the vulva)
  • Swelling of your vaginal lips (the labia)
  • Thick discharge
  • Pain when you wee
  • Pain during sex

It's important to note that not everyone with thrush will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may have no symptoms at all. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms along with a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, you should see your GP straight away.

Oral thrush is a common fungal infection that affects the mouth and throat. In the mouth, thrush appears as white patches on the tongue, gums, or inside of the cheeks. These patches may be painful and can cause difficulty swallowing, as well as a loss of taste. Oral thrush can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in infants and older adults.

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing oral thrush. Poor oral hygiene, smoking, wearing dentures that don't fit properly, and having a weakened immune system can all contribute to the development of thrush. Additionally, taking antibiotics or certain medications that suppress the immune system can increase the risk of thrush.

With vaginal thrush comes a discharge that you shouldn’t normally see. Your discharge can turn yellow or stay white but be quite a lot thicker than usual (usually a cottage cheese consistency).

Men may experience redness, itching, and irritation on the penis. Find out more about male thrush.

Causes of thrush

Thrush is caused by a yeast fungus called candida, but don’t worry, it’s usually harmless. Candida loves warm, moist conditions. Your vagina can be the perfect breeding ground for thrush if the balance of your good bacteria that normally keep the fungus under control is disturbed. The main reason for getting thrush is because your balance of bacteria changes, but the following can also affect your bacteria balance:

  • If you're taking antibiotics
  • Irritated skin
  • Weakened immune system
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy
  • If you've got a UTI (urinary tract infection)

While thrush isn’t a sexually transmitted disease, it can be triggered and sometimes passed on through sex. So, for that reason, you should avoid sex whilst you have thrush.

Thrush treatments

The most common treatment for thrush is antifungal medications. You can buy antifungal medicine from your local Boots pharmacy if you’ve been diagnosed with thrush in the past and know your symptoms. Our pharmacists are on hand to help recommend the best treatment for you. If discussing your symptoms makes you uncomfortable, our private consultation rooms offer a discreet space to address your concerns.

For vaginal thrush, consider over-the-counter antifungal creams. Additionally, maintaining good oral hygiene plays a role in preventing and managing oral thrush.

Canesten Oral Capsule is an effective single-dose treatment for vaginal thrush. It can also be used to treat your partner if he is suffering from thrush on the penis. Always read the label. Suitable for: Adults aged between 16 and 60 years of age.

Canesten Thrush Combi treats both the cause and the symptoms of thrush for complete relief. The pack contains a regular vaginal pessary to clear the infection and an external cream to relieve symptoms such as itching and soreness. Always read the label. Suitable for: Adults between 16 – 60 years of age. Active Ingredients: Clotrimazole.

Your tampon just got smarter! With our non-invasive Diagnostic Tampon, you can screen for vaginal infections like thrush and bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections and the overall health of your vaginal microbiome.

Antifungal cream for the treatment of the external symptoms of thrush. The cream may also be used by sexual partners to treat associated penile thrush. Always read the label. Suitable for: Adults and children over the age of 16. Active ingredients: Clotrimazole.

How do I treat recurring thrush infections?

If you have recurring thrush infections it is important that you do not self-treat and see your GP to determine the underlying cause and develop a more targeted treatment plan. With medication, the thrush should clear up within a week but if it doesn’t see your GP.

When should I see a doctor for thrush?

Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the infection from worsening and causing further discomfort. Additionally, some symptoms of thrush can be similar to those of other conditions, such as sexually transmitted infections, so it's important to get a proper diagnosis to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment.

You should also consult your doctor if you've tried over-the-counter treatments for thrush and your symptoms haven't improved, or if your symptoms worsen after starting treatment. 

If it's your first time or if you get it more than twice in six months, see your GP. If you’re pregnant and you get thrush, you should also see your GP or midwife.

Recurrent thrush infections may indicate an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best course of action for your individual situation.

Preventing & managing thrush

From wearing cotton underwear to avoiding soaps or shower gels, there are certain things you can do to stop thrush from coming back. 

Thrush or bacterial vaginosis trouble?

Join us for the latest episode on Dual Action Thrush & BV with our host, Kerry-Ann Downes, Boots' Senior Product Manager. If you are unsure whether your symptoms are due to thrush or BV, Boots' Dual Action Thrush and BV Pessaries are clinically proven to safely and effectively treat either infection.

Frequently asked questions

Thrush isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but it can be triggered and sometimes passed on through sex. It's important to note that some STIs can cause symptoms similar to those of thrush, such as genital itching and discharge.

If you are experiencing these symptoms and have had unprotected sex, it's important to get tested for STIs to rule out any potential infections, either by booking a visit to your local sexual health clinic or with an with a Boots Online Doctor STI Home test kit.5

Practising safe sex and getting regular STI testing can help reduce your risk of both conditions.

Men can also get thrush, not just through having sex with someone who already has it, (although this is the most common way) but through a disturbance of good bacteria. Just as a woman’s vagina can make a nice home for candida (the fungus previously discussed), so can the nice warm moist area of the penis. In men, thrush can cause redness, itching, and irritation on the penis. It may also cause a white, lumpy discharge that resembles cottage cheese. 

It's generally recommended that you avoid using tampons until the infection has cleared up. This is because tampons can irritate the vaginal area and potentially worsen symptoms of thrush. Additionally, tampons can absorb medication used to treat thrush, making it less effective.

Instead of using tampons, it's recommended that you use sanitary pads or panty liners until your thrush infection has been fully treated. You may also want to consider wearing loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton, which can help reduce irritation and promote healing.

Thrush can sometimes come back after treatment, especially if the underlying cause of the infection is not addressed. For example, if thrush is caused by a weakened immune system or an uncontrolled medical condition like diabetes, it may be more likely to recur. Additionally, if you do not complete the full course of medication prescribed for your thrush infection, it may not be fully cleared up and could return.

To prevent thrush from coming back after treatment, it's important to address any underlying health issues that may be contributing to the infection. 

Thrush is not typically considered a contagious condition. However, it's important to note that some types of yeast infections can be spread through sexual contact. For example, men can develop thrush on the penis after having unprotected sex with a partner who has a vaginal yeast infection.

Additionally, babies can sometimes develop thrush after coming into contact with yeast in their mother's breast milk. If you are concerned about the potential for thrush to be spread to others, talk to your GP about steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission and maintain good overall health.

If you have thrush, it's generally recommended that you avoid having sex until the infection has cleared up. This is because sexual activity can cause further irritation and discomfort in the affected area, potentially prolonging the healing process. Additionally, engaging in sex while you have thrush may increase the risk of passing the infection to your partner, especially if you're not using barrier protection like condoms. Once your symptoms have resolved and you've completed the full course of treatment prescribed by your doctor, it should be safe to have sex again. 

Vaginal itching is a common symptom that many women experience at some point in their lives. It can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from mild irritations to more serious medical conditions. Some common causes of vaginal itching include yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, and skin irritations from soaps, detergents, or personal care products.

If you're experiencing vaginal itching, it's important to pay attention to any accompanying symptoms and consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. They can help determine the underlying cause of your discomfort and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan. In some cases, over-the-counter remedies may be sufficient to alleviate itching, while other situations may require prescription medications or further medical intervention. By addressing the root cause of the itching, you can work towards finding relief and maintaining good overall health.

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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.

1Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria may apply. Charges may apply.

5Access to test kits and prescription-only treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.

Please note, free home postal delivery is only available to patients registered with a GP in England. However, the option to collect in-store is available for all customers registered with a participating GP anywhere in the UK. For patients registered with a participating GP surgery only. NHS Prescriptions charges may apply.

Page last reviewed by Boots Pharmacy team on 18/06/2024

If you need help with how to treat thrush, you're in the right place. Explore our wide range of thrush treatments, and learn more about your symptoms while you're here. Boots is the place to find the right product just for you, including immediate thrush relief, vaginal thrush treatments and any other creams and tablets you might need, so you can get back to feeling like yourself.