If left untreated, an infection will at best complicate a thru-hike, and at worst end it. We emphasize prevention but if you do develop an infection on-trail, make sure to leave the Trail as soon as possible and seek medical attention if necessary. However, infections can be prevented with proper hygiene and precautions. There are two main types of feminine infections to be concerned with: vaginal infections and urinary tract infections.
Vaginal infections can occur due to an imbalance in bacterial flora, the introduction of harmful bacteria or viruses, or as a response to an allergen. Vaginal infections can be very uncomfortable and dangerous if left untreated. More Details
Symptoms vary depending upon the type of infection, but if you have any of the following it may indicate a vaginal infection: itching, redness, swelling, pain during urination, discolored discharge, odor, and changes in discharge. More Details
Types of Vaginal Infection
There are numerous types of vaginal infections, the most common of which are yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, Trichomonas vaginosis ("trich"), Chlamydia, gonorrhea, viral vaginitis, and allergies.
Of these, women are probably most familiar with yeast infections. A yeast infection happens when a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans flourishes beyond normal levels due to an imbalance in the vagina’s bacterial flora. Common Symptoms include white discharge, itching, and redness. Risk Factors include antibiotic use, increased estrogen, uncontrolled diabetes, douching, an impaired immune system, and stress.
Treatment: Depending on the severity, treatment can include over the counter anti-fungal treatments like Monistat, Vagistat, Femstat 3, and Gyne-Lotrimin, as well as prescription oral medications, and therapy.
If you aren't already familiar, here is an article on over the counter yeast infection treatment basics. It seems that some women are more prone to yeast infections than others. If you think you may develop one, consider bringing a fast-acting (one to three-day) over the counter treatment, since you could easily be a week or more away from access to the pharmacy when one begins.
A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of your urinary tract including your kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. Women have a greater risk of developing a UTIs than men and if infection does spread to your kidneys, it can be very dangerous. Once diagnosed, a UTI is typically treated with antibiotics, but as always prevention is key. Antibiotic regimes can last two weeks, during which time your thru-hike grinds to a halt.
Common Symptoms include the constant urge to urinate, burning sensation, many small urinations, cloudy urine, blood in urine (red, pink or cola colored urine), strong smelling urine, and pelvic pain. Risk Factors include being female, sexual activity, self contamination, certain types of birth control, and menopause.
Because UTIs are bacterial, there is no over-the-counter treatment. If you develop a UTI you must get off-trail and see a doctor to receive prescription antibiotics. You can however take over the counter pain medication to mitigate any pain until you reach town.
Prevention is the most important thing you can do. Drink lots of water, after digging a hole wipe correctly from front to back to prevent transmission of bacteria, urinate often, drink cranberry juice on zero days, and drink water and urinate after sexual activity. More details from the Mayo Clinic can be found here.
Stay Hydrated & Pee Often
Keep Your Underwear Clean
Stay Dry and Clean