Thrush is a very common yeast infection. It’s not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back.

Symptoms of thrush

Some people won’t have any signs or symptoms of thrush at all.

Sometimes there can be too much yeast and it can cause symptoms.

Thrush symptoms in women

Symptoms of thrush in women include:

  • white vaginal discharge (often like cottage cheese), which does not usually smell
  • itching and irritation around the vagina
  • soreness and stinging during sex or when you pee

Thrush symptoms in men

Symptoms of thrush in men include:

  • irritation, burning and redness around the head of the penis and under the foreskin
  • a white discharge (like cottage cheese)
  • an unpleasant smell
  • difficulty pulling back the foreskin

Thrush in other areas

Thrush can affect other areas of skin, including the armpits, groin and between your fingers.

Symptoms of thrush in other areas include:

  • a red itchy or painful rash (the rash might not be easy to see on darker skin)
  • white or yellow discharge

When to get medical advice

Speak to your GP practice or local sexual health clinic if:

  • you have symptoms of thrush for the first time
  • you have thrush and are under 16 or over 60
  • thrush keeps coming back (more than 4 times in 12 months)
  • treatment for thrush has not worked
  • you have thrush and are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • you have thrush and a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy

Testing for thrush

If you think you might have thrush, get tested for free by:

Testing is also available in some pharmacies.

What does a thrush test involve?

The test for thrush only takes a few seconds and isn’t usually painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment.

It’s not always necessary to have a test for thrush. If you do have a test, a doctor or nurse may:

  • look at the genital area
  • use a swab (cotton bud) to collect a sample from the parts of the body that could be affected such as the vagina

Thrush may have similar symptoms to some STIs, so it’s important you seek advice if you think you may be at risk of an STI.

Treatment for thrush

Treatment is simple and only necessary if you have signs and symptoms of thrush.

You may be given:

  • antifungal cream to apply to the genital area
  • vaginal pessaries (tablets that you put into your vagina)
  • oral pills
  • a combination of treatments

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to use the treatment.

It’s very important to take the treatment as instructed and finish any course of treatment even if the symptoms go away earlier.

You can buy antifungal treatments from most pharmacies if you’ve been diagnosed with thrush in the past and you know the symptoms.

Some antifungal products can weaken latex condoms, diaphragms and caps. You should avoid sex while undergoing treatment if this is your method of contraception.

You should tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you’re pregnant, might be pregnant, or if you’re breastfeeding. This may affect the type of treatment you’re given.

If thrush isn’t treated it eventually goes away on its own.

There’s no need for your partner(s) to have treatment unless they have signs and symptoms of thrush.

What causes thrush?

Your chances of developing thrush increase if:

  • your skin is irritated or damaged
  • you’re taking antibiotics
  • you have poorly controlled diabetes
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example you’re having chemotherapy or living with HIV
  • you’re having hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • you’re pregnant
  • you use products that irritate the skin such as perfumed products, bubble baths or vaginal washing products

How to prevent thrush

Some people find that different triggers cause thrush. If you notice a pattern, you may be able to help control it.

There are things you can do to relieve symptoms and stop thrush from coming back.


  • use a soap substitute (emollient) to add moisture instead of soap – these are available in some pharmacies
  • use non-soap bath additives such as unfragranced bath oil instead of bubble bath
  • dry properly after washing
  • wear cotton underwear
  • avoid sex until thrush has cleared up if sex is uncomfortable
  • if you do have sex, make sure your vagina is well-lubricated


  • do not use soaps on or near your genital area, it can be drying
  • do not let products like shampoo or conditioner run onto your genital area
  • do not use bubble baths, essential oils or soap or shower gels in the bath as they’ll run onto the genital skin and cause irritation
  • do not use wet wipes on the genital skin
  • do not use feminine washing products – even if they say they are pH balanced as they disrupt healthy bacteria in the vagina
  • do not ‘douche’ (wash out the vagina with water or other products) as it damages the healthy vaginal organisms and changes their natural balance
  • do not wear tight underwear, tights, tight trousers or jeans
  • do not use fabric softeners

If you’re prescribed an antibiotic for another condition, remind your doctor that you tend to get thrush and ask for some preventive treatment for thrush at the same time.

Regular thrush

Some people may only get thrush once. Others may get it multiple times.

You may need to take treatment for longer if you keep getting thrush (you get it more than 4 times in 12 months).

If you get recurrent thrush the doctor or nurse will want to check that other conditions, such as diabetes, aren’t the cause of the thrush.

They’ll recommend how often you should use treatment.

Last updated:
01 June 2023