Treatment for vaginal thrush 

Vaginal thrush is treated with medications you can buy over the counter from a pharmacy, or get on prescription from your GP.

If you've had thrush before and think you have it again, you can normally treat it with medication bought from a local pharmacy. Otherwise, you should see your GP for advice.

Find your local pharmacy

Read about when to get medical advice for vaginal thrush.

Thrush medications

Thrush is treated with antifungal medicines that are available as pessaries, intravaginal creams or capsules.

All these medications are equally effective, but you may find that one is more convenient to use than another.

Pessaries and intravaginal creams

A pessary is a pill that you insert into your vagina using a special applicator. Intravaginal creams are applied inside your vagina.

The main types used to treat thrush are:

  • clotrimazole – available over the counter from pharmacies
  • econazole, miconazole and fenticonazole – available on prescription

Over-the-counter pessaries are usually used daily for one to six days. Intravaginal cream is normally used once. Possible side effects include a mild burning sensation, slight redness or itching.

These treatments can also damage latex condoms and diaphragms, so you may want to avoid having sex, or use another form of contraception during treatment and for up to five days afterwards.

Capsules

If you would prefer not to use pessaries or intravaginal cream, antifungal capsules are available.

The main types used to treat thrush are:

  • fluconazole – available over the counter from pharmacies
  • itraconazole  available on prescription

Over-the-counter thrush capsules usually come as a single dose.

Possible side effects can include feeling sick, an upset stomach, diarrhoea and headaches.

Skin creams

If the skin around the entrance to your vagina is also sore or itchy, you may find it helpful to use an antifungal skin cream in addition to one of the treatments above.

  • Creams containing clotrimazole can be bought over the counter from pharmacies.
  • They're available in packs that also include antifungal pessaries, intravaginal cream or capsules.
  • They're normally applied to the skin two or three times a day for at least two weeks.
  • Possible side effects include irritation, a stinging sensation or itching.

Alternatively, you could try using an ordinary emollient (moisturiser) near your vagina. This can help relieve your symptoms and causes fewer side effects than antifungal cream.

Emollients and antifungal skin cream can weaken latex condoms and diaphragms, so you may want to avoid having sex, or use another form of contraception during treatment and for up to five days afterwards.

Sex and sexual partners

Vaginal thrush isn't classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so sexual partners don't need to be informed, tested or treated if they don't have any symptoms.

However, there's a very small risk of passing the condition on during sex, so you may want to avoid having sex until it's cleared up.

Some treatments can also weaken latex condoms and diaphragms (see above), so you may want to avoid having sex or use another form of contraception during treatment and for a few days afterwards.

If thrush keeps coming back

Speak to your GP if you experience frequent bouts of thrush.

They might run some tests to confirm the diagnosis and check for any possible underlying cause, such as diabetes.

They may also give you a prescription you can use whenever the symptoms return, or suggest trying a longer course of treatment lasting up to six months.

If you're pregnant or breastfeeding

Visit your GP if you have thrush and you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Your GP will probably suggest using pessaries or an intravaginal cream. Capsules aren't recommended because they could harm your baby.

If you're pregnant, take care when using an applicator to insert a pessary or intravaginal cream, as there's a small risk of injuring your cervix (neck of the womb).

Antifungal skin cream or moisturisers can normally be used safely if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and the area around the entrance to your vagina is sore or itchy.

Alternative treatments

Some women with thrush try complementary therapies, such as bathing with diluted tea tree oil gel, eating probiotic yoghurts or supplements, or applying probiotic yoghurt to the genital area.

However, there's little evidence to suggest that tea tree oil is helpful, and it can sometimes irritate the skin.

Probiotics are unlikely to have any side effects, but there's also little evidence to suggest they can help.

Page last reviewed: 04/03/2016

Next review due: 04/03/2018