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Blue waffle?

1) Dear Alice,

I am an undergraduate student who teaches health workshops at a public school. My workshop topic this year is pregnancy prevention. So far, this question has come up many times:Is blue waffle real? Can you set the record straight for me?

Thanks!

2) Dear Alice,

I have often heard my friends talking about this so-called disease "Blue Waffle." Is it even a real disease? I have researched it on the web and all that comes up is the familiar "It causes a blue colour of the vagina and possible lesions."

Dear Readers,

“Blue waffle,” or “blue waffle disease,” is many things, but real isn’t one of them. It’s an urban legend, a myth, a tall tale, a rumor, a hoax. This fictional sexually transmitted infection (STI) began as an Internet prank when someone posted a digitally altered photo online showing an inflamed and infected vulva and labia with a strong blue coloring. The name “blue waffle” comes from a slang word for vagina (“waffle”) and the alleged symptoms resulting in the genital area turning blue. Tricking people into finding these images online was how the myth initially spread in the late 2000s, causing widespread panic among Internet users due to the shocking nature of the edited images.

The so-called STI was said to be caused by bacterial growth in the vagina as a result of unprotected sex or improper hygiene. People who failed to regularly change their menstrual products, wear clean underwear, or clean the genitals properly and regularly were supposedly at a higher risk of contracting blue waffle. Other factors that allegedly increased risk included having sex with open scratches, cuts, or other vaginal wounds and having multiple sexual partners. While the vulva and labia turning blue was a consistent symptom across the board, other supposed symptoms of blue waffle varied depending on the source, with details changing over time like a giant game of telephone. Some of these include vaginal inflammation, itching, and burning, as well as red rashes surrounding the affected area and vaginal secretion of an odorous liquid. While there was said to be no cure or treatment for blue waffle, there were ways to help fight the disease and provide relief for some of the symptoms, including multivitamin supplements, antibiotics, tea tree oil, and yogurt containing probiotics.

Many of the symptoms of the imaginary blue waffle were most likely borrowed from those associated with real STIs and other conditions affecting the genitals—while the blue color is a hoax, the other symptoms shared a lot of similarities with real diseases. For example, a red or irritated vagina or vulva, a strong vaginal odor, and itching or burning may indicate bacterial vaginosis (or “BV,” an infection occurring when the normal vaginal microbiome gets disrupted) or trichomoniasis (or “trich,” a single-cell parasitic infection). Painful urination and vaginal discharge are common symptoms of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs) may also cause painful urination. Pain in the genital area during sex is also associated with chlamydia and trichomoniasis, and sores and lesions are one of the primary symptoms of herpes.

While folks may be inclined to dismiss blue waffle as just another ridiculous Internet myth, its conception points to some harmful and outdated societal perceptions. Many people shared the original meme to try to shock and scare others, which only added to harmful (and false!) narratives that people who contract STIs are dirty or promiscuous. By sensationalizing symptoms, the blue waffle myth may also have reinforced the idea that STIs always cause horrific symptoms, which isn’t the case: many people contract STIs and develop little to no symptoms, which is why it's recommended that all sexually active people receive regular STI screenings regardless of symptoms.

Even though blue waffle is fake, prevention of other STIs is no joke! Barrier methods to prevent STIs include condoms, internal condoms, or dental dams. These protective methods block fluids and some skin-to-skin contact that may spread STIs. Getting tested for STIs regularly, maintaining open communication with your sexual partner(s), and engaging in lower-risk sexual activities (such as mutual masturbation, dry-humping, cuddling, roleplay, etc.) are all great ways to stay safe and reduce the risk of contracting STIs as well.

If you’re curious about STIs and want to learn more, check out the Go Ask Alice! Sexual and Reproductive Health archives or reach out to a health care provider for more information. Kudos to you for fact-checking and remaining skeptical when you’re unsure about something you hear about online: the Internet is full of fibs and falsities, and unfortunately, we can’t believe everything we read (or see)!

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Last updated Jan 06, 2023
Originally published Mar 15, 2013

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