If you use tampons for menstrual engagement, (also called period, or a “menstrual cycle”), it is vital to be equipped with the basics for how to safely use them.

The information featured in this article is in line with guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What exactly are tampons, and what are they made of?

You may be amazed to find out that the Food and Drug Administration regulates tampons as medical devices. Just like how cotton wool and tissue rolls were used in the past, tampons are inserted into the female sex organ to absorb menstrual flow.

Tampons are cylindrical, and they are made of rayon, cotton, or a blend of both. Tampons are designed in three different ways, either to be inserted with the aid of cardboard or plastic applicator or to be directly inserted, without the assistance of an applicator.

What should you know about different types of tampons? And are tampons safe?

Tampons are made available for sale in both “organic” and standard varieties. You can also get tampons in “scented” and “unscented” types. However, before any tampons can be made available for public purchase, they must go through an FDA review to certify that they are substantially equal to, as well as safe and capable enough to be legally marketed.

As a part of the essential FDA review, manufacturers have to submit, among other valuable data, the results of testing the tampons to evaluate the safety of the materials used for the making of both tampons and applicators (if added); tampons’ strength, absorbency, and integrity; and whether each tampon enhances the growth of specific harmful bacteria or toy with healthy bacterial growth in the vagina.

The absorbent fibers used in the making of the tampons sold in today’s market are made to go through a bleaching process that is free from elemental chlorine, which is also known to prevent these products from having harmful levels of dioxin (a type of pollutant that is found in the environment).

The conclusion: The FDA views any tampon that is marketed and complies with FDA requirements, with FDA premarket review, to be safe for use and effective when used according to directions.

What must consumers know to safely use tampons?

You may consider talking to your health care provider if you have inquiries about whether tampons, menstrual pads or cups are right for you. If you choose to use tampons instead of other menstrual engagement products, consider the following general advice.

Do not assume that you know how to use a tampon. Do well to follow all labeled directions. Even if you have used tampons in the past, it is best to refresh yourself on the best practices, including any available information on how to wash your hands before and after use.

(Please note: It is almost impossible for a tampon to get “lost” in your body if used as directed.)

Do not use tampon regularly like you would use a panty liner. Only use them when you are on your period, and ensure to use them as directed. If tampons are used any other time asides during menstrual periods, they could be dangerous.

Change your tampon at most every 4 to 8 hours. Never put on a single tampon fora minute longer than 8 hours at a time.

Always use the lowest absorbency tampon that is needed at a time. Consider how light or heavy your period is and how frequently you need to change your tampon. If there is any tampon that you can wear for up to eight hours without needing to change it, then the absorbency may be too high.

Consider which menstrual products are best for various activities. For example, if you need a means of menstrual engagement for longer than 8 hours, like when traveling or sleeping, opt for a sanitary pad instead.

Beware of pain during use or other unusual symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if ever you feel any pains, discomfort, or other unusual symptoms such as abnormal discharge when trying to insert or slot in a tampon.

(Note: It is not reasonable to feel a tampon if it is inserted properly.) The above symptoms may mean that you have to take a break from tampons usage.

Symptoms like a sudden fever (usually around 102°F or more) and diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting or feeling like you will faint when you stand up, or a rash that may look like a sunburn are likely signs of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

If you notice any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above while on your period, take out the tampon and immediately seek medical attention. And if you suffer any of these symptoms shortly after your menstrual period, seek medical advice immediately.

If ever you have an irritation or an allergic reaction from using tampons, avoid the use of tampons, and have a talk with your health care provider.

Finally, if ever you notice any problem with a tampon, consider reporting it to the MedWatch, which is the FDA’s official safety information and adverse event reporting program.

What must you know about toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?

One safety issue that has been associated with the use of tampons is toxic shock syndrome, a sporadic condition that is caused by any poisonous substance that is created by specific kinds of bacteria.

These toxic substances may cause organ damage (including heart, kidney, and liver failure), shock, and at worse, death. The good news, however, is that rates of reported TSS cases that have to do with tampons have significantly declined over the last 20 years.

One of the reasons is that, as a part of the premarket review for tampons, the FDA evaluates whether a tampon promotes the growth of the bacteria that is responsible for TSS before they decide whether the tampon can be made available for sale.

The FDA is also of the opinion that more informative tampon labeling, together with educational efforts by manufacturers and the FDA, have added significantly to this significant drop in TSS cases.

While TSS is now a rare disease, the risk of dealing with it is higher if you:

  • Always use an absorbent tampon than necessary, or
  • If you wear a tampon for longer than 4 hours.
  • So remember, it is essential to follow the safety instructions written on the tampon labeling.

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