A photo of women's underwear

Is Your Underwear Affecting Your Health?

Original Article and Video by Dr. Liza Ramoso-Ong

Many people are not aware of the health risks in buying a pair of underwear. Actually, choosing the right underwear can help you avoid skin and genital infection. For men, it may even improve your fertility.

Here are some tips to follow:

Choose cotton over nylon underwear.

Cotton underwear is better because it is cooler, softer and gentler to your skin. Avoid nylon and synthetic fabrics which can hold onto the sweat, possibly causing skin irritation and inflammation. Cotton underwear actually lowers your risk of getting vaginal infection and jock itch.

Choose loose and comfortable underwear.

Dr. Katty Go, a dermatologist at Manila Doctors Hospital, has a practical tip. Buy an underwear that is one size bigger. Yes, loose underpants may not look as nice, but it is more comfortable and healthier for the skin around the genital area. A tight underwear worn for a long time can cause vaginal infection and redness of the skin. If the elastic band is too tight, it can irritate the skin causing a lesion, dimpling and even skin discoloration.

Avoid repeating the same underwear the next day.

If you haven’t got a fresh pair, it is probably okay to reuse an underwear occasionally. However, don’t make it a habit. If the underwear is soiled with urine or feces, then you should change it immediately. If you have a skin rash or a sore, then you should wear a fresh pair daily. Ladies can get a yeast infection in the vaginal area from dirty underwear.

Once the elastic band of the underwear is loose or torn, this will cause shifting of the cloth. It’s time to get a fresh pair and discard the old ones.

When washing underwear, choose a hypoallergenic detergent.

Since the skin around the genital area is very sensitive, we should use a gentle detergent for washing underwear. Buy a hypoallergenic detergent, without dyes or perfumes, and one that is safe for sensitive skin. Never use bleach for your underwear because this can wear out the cloth fiber causing possible chemical irritation and allergies.

Don’t use a thong, especially if you are working out.

Although using a thong is probably safe for most people, there are potential dangers especially for athletes. When you are exercising, thong underwear may lose its place and cause repeated friction in the pelvic area. This can irritate the vagina leading to a bacterial or yeast infection. Some women develop urinary tract infection. In addition, a thong does not protect your private part, exposing it to your pants or dress.

For women, check underwear stains.

Women usually have a normal and small amount of whitish vaginal discharge. However, if the discharge becomes yellowish, foul-smelling or tinged with blood, then you may have an infection, or some other condition. Do not disregard such stains in your underwear. See your gynecologist for a check-up.

For men, wear loose briefs or choose boxer shorts.

There may be some connection between infertility and tight briefs. Science has shown that the sperms in the scrotum thrive best at colder temperature. Hence, nature designed the scrotum to be hanging outside the body, away from the body heat. However, if you wear a tight brief, the scrotum gets tightly packed and exposed to the body temperature. The body’s heat can have a deleterious effect on sperm production, affecting your fertility.

Sleeping without underwear may be good for you.

There are experts who believe that sleeping without underwear may have some benefits. Letting your genital area air dry can be healthy. This is especially true for people with frequent vaginal infection, urinary tract infection or jock itch. First, underwear carries bacteria that may find its way into the urethra causing a bladder infection. Second, the vagina is allowed to “breathe” and air dry at night. Third, a tight underwear keeps moisture in and a moist private part is prone to harboring germs.

You should always wear underwear in public.

Without underwear, lice, infection and dirt can find its way into your private parts during a long and busy day. When discussed about the benefits of air drying your genital area, I was only talking about doing this overnight.

Finally, choose clean, cotton and loose underwear. They are perfect for your health.

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