Vaginal thrush - Treatment 

Treating vaginal thrush 

For mild vaginal thrush, a short course of anti-thrush medicine may be recommended. It is usually taken for one to three days.

If your thrush symptoms are more severe, you'll need to take the treatment for longer.

Anti-thrush medicines are available as:

  • an anti-thrush pessary  to deal with Candida in the vagina. A pessary is a specially shaped pill that you insert into your vagina using an applicator, similar to how a tampon is inserted
  • an anti-thrush cream  to deal with Candida on the skin around the vagina's entrance
  • anti-thrush tablets  which can be used instead of creams and pessaries; these are swallowed and are called oral treatments

Pessaries and oral treatments have been found to be equally effective in treating thrush. Around 80% of women are successfully treated regardless of the type of medication they use. 

Deciding on the type of treatment

Many women use anti-thrush pessaries and creams to treat a straightforward bout of thrush. Pessaries and creams are recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Oral treatments are simpler and more convenient than pessaries and creams, but they can have side effects. Both are equally effective.

Anti-thrush tablets

The two main types of anti-thrush tablets that are prescribed by doctors to treat vaginal thrush contain the antifungal medicines fluconazole or itraconazole. If you prefer to use a cream, you can use an emollient moisturiser rather than an antifungal cream.

Anti-thrush tablets can cause side effects, including:

Anti-thrush pessaries

Pessaries that are often prescribed for thrush include the anti-fungal medicines:

Vaginal pessaries are not absorbed into the body, but they can:

  • be awkward to use
  • cause a mild burning sensation, slight redness or itching
  • leave a white or creamy stain on your underwear (it washes out)
  • damage latex condoms and diaphragms, so you will have to use another form of contraception while using them

You shouldn't use vaginal pessaries without seeing a doctor. Read more about why vaginal pessaries should not be used frequently.

Pharmacy anti-thrush treatments

Some tablets, creams and pessaries to treat vaginal thrush are available over the counter from your pharmacist, and a prescription is not needed.

Anti-thrush pessaries and creams containing clotrimazole are widely sold from pharmacies under the brand name Canesten.

Fluconazole is also available over the counter from pharmacies as a single-dose tablet for treating thrush, under the brand names Diflucan and Canesten Oral.

These treatments can be effective if you've had thrush before. However, don't buy medication directly from a pharmacy if it's your first bout of thrush. Visit your GP first.

You shouldn't use over-the-counter thrush treatments for a long period of time without talking to your GP.

Advice if you're pregnant or breastfeeding 

If you have thrush and you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you should always visit your GP rather than buying anti-thrush medication directly from a pharmacy.

You won't be prescribed oral treatment because it may affect your baby. An anti-thrush pessary  such as clotrimazole, econazole or miconazole  will usually be prescribed.

If you're pregnant, take care when inserting a pessary as there's a small risk of injuring your cervix (neck of the womb). To reduce the risk, insert the pessaries using your finger instead of using the applicator.

If you have symptoms around your vulva, such as itching and soreness, you may also be prescribed an anti-thrush cream. Between attacks you may also want to use a regular moisturiser around the vagina. For example, E45 cream can be used as a soap substitute. After applying, wash it off then apply a greasier moisturiser to protect the skin. However, be aware that moisturisers can weaken condoms.

Complementary therapies

Some women find that complementary therapies, such as bathing the genital area with diluted tea tree oil gel or plain bio-live yoghurt, ease the symptoms of thrush.

However, tea tree essential oil can sometimes irritate the skin. You should not use more than one or two drops in the bath, and if there is any irritation, stop using the oil and wash the area with clean, warm water.

Although using yoghurt won't do you any harm, there's no evidence to suggest that it will relieve the symptoms of thrush or help treat it. It should not be considered as the main treatment method.

If you want to try using plain live yoghurt, one method is to smear it directly over the vulva to ease any soreness or irritation, and then insert it directly into the vagina.

The easiest way to do this is to use a tampon with an applicator. Push the tampon back inside the applicator, add about one teaspoon of plain live yoghurt to the space and insert the tampon in the usual way. Remove the tampon an hour later. 

Page last reviewed: 07/05/2014

Next review due: 07/05/2016


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The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

JadeMillen said on 22 September 2013

@cheshiresue I used proskin candida when all else failed and it works. It is probably this as this is the only over the counter herbal treatment I know of. Hope this is helpful to you.

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cheshiresue said on 10 June 2013

@janescott1970,I would love to know the name of the herbal remedy you tried as i will try it,the treatment from my doctor stopped working and i am at my wits end,kind regards.

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janescott1970 said on 21 May 2013

Thrush treatments prescribed to me by my doctor stopped working for me years ago and I have suffered really bad over the past few years. Nothing had been able to shift it and I found it really embarrassing (though I suppose there are much worse things you could have). You can imagine how I felt when I used an over the counter herbal treatment and it cured me within one week. I use it a couple of times a week as a preventative measure and so far so good. Haven't had thrush for the past 7 months.

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cathinscotland said on 17 April 2013

I use natural yogurt for thrush. You just slap it on, leave it for a few minutes, then rinse it off. I find it gives instant relief and there are no chemicals. It replaces the good bacteria that the thrush have outnumbered, as I understand it, hence the reason why it works. Besides, it costs like 50p when the chemical ones costs a lot more. Plus, you can get it in any supermarket. Instant relief is the most amazing bit!

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SaCF said on 04 February 2013

Diluting malt vinegar in some water (about 2 parts water to one part vinegar) and then rinsing the area is by far the most effective treatment for thrush I have used. It is a little uncomfortable but really works. I rinse the area with a least a litre at least once a day for about a week (even if the symptoms have ceased) just to be sure and it usually clears it right up.

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caseygreen said on 01 February 2013

Will try this, have had thrush for a couple of months now & 4 visits to the Dr. have achieved nothing.

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carajones said on 28 June 2012

Apparently olive oil is great for thrush. I remember my grandma saying she and all the women in her factory used to add essential oils to olive oil and apply it and that it worked miracles for her thrush during the wartime. I've been lucky in that I don't get this very often and it usually goes away quickly. But hopefully this information from a bygone era will help others.

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What to do if treatment doesn't work

In all cases of thrush, see your GP if your symptoms have not cleared up after treatment.

Read more about what happens if thrush treatment does not work.

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