Tampons can be tricky things.
Sure, they might come with instructional pamphlets but they don’t always give us all the necessary info we need.
While we’re all currently celebrating the fact that the Tampon Tax will finally be lifted in January 2019, stocking up on them over our fertile lives can rack up a pretty hefty price tag, so it’s definitely worth making sure we’re using them right.
But, it’s not just a money issue – using tampons incorrectly can be downright dangerous.
Leave them in too long, for example, and you run the risk of potentially fatal conditions like toxic shock syndrome.
We reveal 11 subtle but common tampon mistakes that loads of us make, and what to do about them:
Sounds obvious but you really do need to wash your hands before and after dealing with your tampon.
You collect all kinds of bacteria on your fingers and you don’t want that going anywhere near your vagina… or your keyboard.
Ever used a tampon the day after your period just in case? Of course you have.
All that’s going to do is dry out your vagina unnecessarily.
If you’re in doubt, pop in a panty liner.
Whatever you do, never stick two tampons up at the same time.
Doing so doubles your chances of accidentally forgetting one is up there – and increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Your vagina is pretty big so there is actually room for two tampons – it won’t stop you from doubling up – but it’s a really, really bad idea.
If you think that your period is too heavy for one, then you might want to visit your GP to talk about why your flow is so strong, and what other methods for controlling it might be available to you.
Your flow is different on different days of your cycle so it just doesn’t make sense to continue using the same absorbency level throughout.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the higher-absorbency tampons can increase your risk of toxic shock, so while it’s smart to use them when you need to, you might want to transition to a regular or lighter-absorbancy as your period progresses.
While toxic shock is pretty rare, it’s also worth switching your tampons according to your flow to avoid vaginal dryness.
Can tampons go off? Yup, ‘fraid so.
Tampons actually expire after five years because the cotton they’re made from is susceptible to mould and bacteria – and that can disrupt your vagina’s delicate bacteria balance.
If you’ve got a stack of tampons that are quickly running out of their expiry date, you might want to ask yourself exactly why you’re hoarding so many?
Proper storage is key to keeping your tampons fit for purpose.
If yours tend to live in the bathroom – where you’re regularly taking hot, steamy showers, then you’re creating the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and germs.
Try to keep them in a cool, dark cabinet rather than out in the open.
If you’re worried about that emergency tampon which lives in the bottom of your handbag, worry less about its expiry date and more about the condition of the wrapper it comes in.
If the wrapper looks torn, bin it. You absolutely do not want to insert a tampon into your vagina that’s been exposed to the dust, make-up and dirt you’ve been carrying around.
You might be forgiven for thinking that once pushed far enough in, tampons are safe from any issues arising from swimming…but you’d be wrong.
When you take a dip, so does your tampon.
The string will pick up anything that’s in the water, from chlorine to whatever’s lurking in the sea.
If you really want to avoid any issues, why not switch to using a menstrual cup? They create a kind of vacuum seal in your vagina and because they’re made from silicone, don’t absorb any potential nasties.
Oh, and they need changing much less often – meaning you can swim around worry-free.
Again, this is more to do with the string than the actual cotton body of the tampon.
If that pesky string picks up any bacteria, it can infect the urethra.
It’s not practical (or environmental) to change your tampon every time you go to the loo but it’s probably best practice to do it if you’re doing more than simply peeing (a problem again solved by switching to a menstrual cup).
And as most of us know, sometimes bowel movements can dislodge tampons making them uncomfortable.
Your vagina is supposed to smell a certain way – and masking that with a fake floral scent is only going to end up making your natural odour worse.
OBGYN Dr Drai told Glamour: “When you put scented things in your vagina, you kill the good bacteria that’s in there and then the bad bacteria overgrows.
“These tampons can cause bacterial vaginosis, so your vagina can actually smell like fish.”
Unless you want the world to drown in a sea of plastic/clog up your plumming, chuck the applicator in the bin and not in the loo.
As with anything medical, if you notice any changes in your period or you’re struggling with your menstruation, visit your GP.
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