What does a fishy odor symptom indicate and what should I do?

Symptom Database

A fishy odor can be quite unpleasant and can indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s a fishy odor in your house, down there, or after your period, it’s important to understand the causes and find appropriate treatment or remedies. In this article, we will explore what a fishy odor symptom indicates and what you can do to get rid of it.

Causes of Fishy Odor

There are several possible causes for a fishy odor, depending on the specific situation. Here are some common causes:

Bacterial Vaginosis

One of the most common causes of fishy vaginal odor is bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV occurs when there is an imbalance in the vaginal bacteria, leading to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria. This can result in a strong fishy odor, along with other symptoms such as itching and discharge.

Poor Hygiene

In some cases, a fishy odor may simply be due to poor hygiene. If you don’t clean your genital area regularly or thoroughly, bacteria can accumulate and cause an unpleasant odor.

Trapped Sweat or Moisture

Trapped sweat or moisture in the genital area can also lead to a fishy odor. This can happen if you wear tight or non-breathable underwear, or if you don’t change out of wet clothes promptly.

Retained Tampon

If you notice a fishy odor after your period, it could be due to a retained tampon. Sometimes, a tampon can get stuck in the vagina and go unnoticed. This can lead to an infection and a foul smell.

Fishy Odor Treatment

Now that we understand some of the causes, let’s explore the treatment options for fishy odor:

Consult a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing a fishy odor, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching or discharge, it is important to consult a healthcare provider. They can diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment.


If the fishy odor is due to bacterial vaginosis, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to help restore the balance of bacteria in your vagina. It is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if the symptoms improve.

Good Hygiene Practices

Practicing good hygiene is essential for preventing and treating fishy odor. Make sure to clean your genital area regularly with mild soap and water. Avoid using harsh or scented products, as they can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria.

Avoid Trapped Sweat or Moisture

To prevent fishy odor caused by trapped sweat or moisture, opt for breathable underwear made of natural fibers. Change out of wet clothes promptly, especially after exercising or swimming.

Remove Retained Tampons

If you suspect a retained tampon is causing the fishy odor, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. If you are unable to remove it yourself, seek medical assistance.

Fishy Odor Remedies

In addition to the treatment options mentioned above, there are some home remedies that may help alleviate fishy odor:


Probiotics, either in the form of supplements or certain foods, can help restore the balance of bacteria in your vagina. Look for products that contain Lactobacillus strains, which are known to promote vaginal health.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has natural antibacterial properties and can help eliminate fishy odor. Mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with warm water and use it to rinse your genital area. However, be cautious as it may cause irritation in some individuals.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is another natural remedy that has antimicrobial properties. Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil in water and use it as a wash for your genital area. However, it is important to do a patch test first, as some individuals may be sensitive to tea tree oil.


A fishy odor can be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s bacterial vaginosis, poor hygiene, trapped sweat or moisture, or a retained tampon, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In addition to medical interventions, practicing good hygiene and trying home remedies such as probiotics, apple cider vinegar, and tea tree oil may help alleviate fishy odor. Remember, maintaining vaginal health is crucial for overall well-being, so don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if you have any concerns.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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