Why shouldn't I use over-the-counter clotrimazole cream or pessary for thrush too often?

When you buy clotrimazole over the counter, it should not be used more than twice in six months. If you think you've been infected more than this, you should see your GP to find out the cause. You should also go back to your GP if you have no improvement within 7 to 14 days of treatment with clotrimazole.

Clotrimazole products are a common treatment for vaginal thrush (candidiasis), which is one of the most common genital infections. The infection is usually caused by a yeast called Candida albicans. Clotrimazole is available on prescription and over the counter from pharmacies, as both a cream or pessary.

Frequent bouts of symptoms are sometimes caused by reinfection with thrush. However, your GP will want to rule out other possible causes, such as:

  • an underlying condition that can increase your risk of developing thrush – for example, diabetesHIV or taking medicines that suppress your immune system
  • a different infection – other infections that can produce symptoms similar to thrush are chlamydia, giardia and gardenerella
  • the candida yeast causing the thrush has developed resistance to clotrimazole – although rare, if this is the case, you will need to take either a longer course of medicine or an alternative anti-candida medicine
  • antibiotics – a course of antibiotics for another condition can upset the balance of bacteria in your vagina, making an episode of thrush more likely

If you have any concerns about the information above, or need help understanding it and how it relates to your own situation, you should talk to your GP or pharmacist (chemist). You can also phone NHS 111.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 01/05/2015

Next review due: 30/04/2017