How to Prevent Thrush - Your Questions Answered
Find research-backed answers to some of the most common questions on how to prevent thrush in men and women in our expert guide.
Updated: Wednesday 30 August 2023
Thrush is one of the most common medical conditions in the UK. While it predominantly affects women, thrush has the potential to impact people of all genders and ages. This is why searches for questions like ‘how do men get thrush?’ remain popular.
Despite this interest, the conversation on how to prevent thrush remains limited. With this in mind, our experts decided to compile research-based answers to some of the most common questions about thrush treatments and prevention which are the focal points of this article today.
General thrush questions
How common is thrush?
Thrush is one of the most common fungal conditions and can affect the genitals, skin, and mouth. Thrush outbreaks may grow in prevalence if the Candida albicans fungus responsible for the condition grows due to factors like exercising with thrush while wearing tight clothes.
According to Oxford University, approximately 75% of biologically assigned females experience genital thrush at some stage. While the figure isn’t as high for men, it can still produce limited symptoms which we shall touch on later.
The prevalence of oral thrush is higher and affects a more diverse range of people than genital thrush. Between 5% and 7% of infants develop oral thrush and it is prevalent in up to 30% of people with HIV-AIDS. Moreover, approximately 20% of people with cancer are susceptible to getting oral thrush.
To put things into perspective, scientists from the University of Manchester predict that the number of people who experience recurring thrush symptoms will rise to 158 million people worldwide by 2030. If this occurs, it would make thrush one of the most common medical conditions in the world.
How is thrush transmitted?
According to the NHS, thrush can be transmitted between partners through kissing, sex, and/or other close contact - although the probability of this occurring is low.
Thrush can also be transmitted from mothers to infants if the candida fungus responsible for thrush gets into the nipples and/or breasts prior to breastfeeding.
How to treat thrush
Thrush can be treated using gels, creams, or capsules depending on the type of thrush.
Oral gels containing miconazole are suitable for individuals who experience mouth thrush, while antifungal creams containing clotrimazole are recommended for those who experience fungal skin infections in and around the genital area.
There are also fluconazole capsules available for individuals interested in treating genital thrush internally as opposed to using topical treatments.
For detailed advice on treating thrush effectively using clinically proven treatments, contact our pharmacy team.
What happens if you leave thrush untreated?
While it’s true that the symptoms of thrush eventually subside on their own, it can take up to a week. During this time, the affected person may experience substantial discomfort due to painful symptoms like itching and burning sensations in the affected area.
We recommend treating thrush as soon as possible, irrespective of severity.
How long does thrush last without treatment?
It depends on the severity of the condition. The symptoms of mild thrush can go away in as little as 3 days, while severe thrush can last for several years - especially if the affected person’s immune system is weak.
Can you get thrush from antibiotics?
Yes, you can get thrush from antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective at killing bacteria, but they do not affect Candida albicans (the fungus responsible for thrush) - so taking them can create an imbalance in the body’s flora which causes thrush.
If you’re wondering how to prevent thrush after antibiotics, experts recommend using an over-the-counter antifungal treatment like clotrimazole 1% cream. You might also wish to try restoring the bacterial balance in your body by eating foods rich in probiotics like yoghurt.
Is thrush common among men?
According to researchers, it is possible for men to get mouth thrush after having oral sex with a partner who has vaginal or penile thrush. This can also cause the man in question to get genital thrush, although the probability of this happening is low as we touched on earlier.
Although the prevalence of thrush in men is not as common as it is among women, we recommend taking action to prevent thrush irrespective of your sex and gender.
How is thrush in men diagnosed?
Thrush in men is diagnosed by checking for common male thrush symptoms. This can include a burning or itching sensation on or around the tip of the penis, tightened foreskin, red spots on the head of the penis (glans), and a stinging sensation when urinating.
The symptoms of thrush in men can also include a red rash under the foreskin, a white and unpleasant-smelling discharge from the penis, and the collection of a white grainy substance under the foreskin.
How to prevent thrush in men
The primary way to prevent oral male thrush is by practising good hygiene. The steps recommended by the NHS to prevent oral thrush are the same for both men and women:
- Brush teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
- Floss regularly
- Rinse the mouth after meals
- Attend regular dental checkups
Men can prevent genital thrush by cleaning the penis and the area surrounding it gently but thoroughly. It can also be useful to avoid sharing towels and wearing underwear made from breathable fabrics to keep the genital area dry and prevent fungal build-up.
How do women get thrush?
Many of the mechanisms that increase the prevalence of thrush in women are the same as those for men. This includes taking antibiotics, practising inadequate genital and oral hygiene, and having a weakened immune system due to other medical conditions like HIV.
With that said, there are a handful of mechanisms that specifically trigger female thrush such as pregnancy.
Why do I get thrush before my period?
Women can get thrush both before and during a period because pH levels around the vagina change during this time.
Research shows that vaginal pH levels tend to fluctuate throughout a menstruation cycle. There is also empirical evidence to suggest that high vaginal pH levels may create ideal conditions for bacteria and yeast responsible for thrush to thrive.
Why do I keep getting vaginal thrush?
Numerous factors may trigger recurring vaginal thrush, such as improper hygiene.
Unfortunately, the current research on this phenomenon is limited, so it's best to speak to our pharmacy team or your GP about treating the symptoms of recurring thrush.
Is vaginal thrush contagious?
Yes, vaginal thrush is contagious if you take the literal meaning of the word as it can be passed from one person to another through touch. However, the probability of vaginal thrush being transmitted through touch is low.
How to prevent vaginal thrush
Vaginal thrush can be prevented through effective genital hygiene. We recommend the following:
- Avoid using fabric softeners while washing undergarments as the residue can come into contact with the genital area and trigger thrush
- Wear loose-fitting pants and cotton undergarments whenever possible
- Use soap substitutes to wash the genital area (we recommend using hypoallergenic products if possible)
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent the spread of candida albicans (the fungus that causes thrush) to the genitals
Thrush During Pregnancy
Can you get thrush when pregnant?
Yes, it is possible to get thrush when pregnant - especially during the third trimester. However, the latest advice from the NHS states that there is no evidence to suggest that getting thrush when pregnant is harmful to unborn babies.
How to prevent thrush while breastfeeding
Washing the breasts and nipples with mild soap before and after breastfeeding can help to prevent thrush transmission.
If you experience symptoms of thrush on the nipples or breasts, contact our pharmacy team about what treatments to use to clear the condition before breastfeeding.
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- Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (University of Oxford), 2023. Experiences and Challenges with Recurrent Vaginal Thrush in Primary Care: A Qualitative Study
- University of Manchester, 2018. New figures show 138 million women suffer from recurrent thrush
- NHS, n.d. Can a man catch thrush from a female partner?
- National Library of Medicine, 2019. Oral thrush: Overview
- Healthline, n.d. The link between antibiotics and yeast infections
- Healthline, n.d. Can You Get a Yeast Infection from Giving or Receiving Oral Sex?
- NHS Inform, n.d. Oral thrush in adults.
- NHS Inform, n.d. Thrush.
- Shen et al. 2022. Vaginal microecological characteristics of women in different physiological and pathological periods.
- Medical News Today, n.d. Vaginal pH balance: Symptoms, remedies, and tests.
- NHS, n.d. Thrush.