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Using a tampon while swimming is safe. In fact, tampons are one of the few options available for swimming while menstruating. Sanitary pads cannot be used in swimming pools as they will soak up water rather than the menstrual flow, resulting in a bulky, water-logged pad that is at risk of becoming detached from the swimming suit. Leaking menstrual flow into the swimming pool is another realistic outcome of using a sanitary pad rather than a tampon while swimming.
Tampons come in a variety of sizes and absorbencies, ranging from light to super based on the volume of a woman's menstrual flow. They are made of cotton, rayon, or a mixture of both products. Tampons are inserted via a woman's finger or a plunger-type applicator that pushes the absorbent material into the vagina. As they are worn internally, using a tampon while swimming is the only effective menstrual option besides a menstrual cup.
Menstrual cups are not as common as tampons, although they work in a similar manner. This product is made of silicone, rubber, or thermoplastic rubber and is inserted via a woman's fingers into the vagina. Menstrual cups can be worn for several hours at a time, and they also can be washed and reused.
There are a few health risks associated with tampon use. The most recognized health risk is that of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a bacterial infection associated with leaving a tampon in too long or using a higher absorbency tampon than is necessary. Symptoms of TSS include vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and fainting, and a rash similar in appearance to a sunburn. In a few cases, TSS has led to death.
Other concerns related to tampons are the use of the ingredients dioxin and asbestos. Rumors have circulated that asbestos, a carcinogen, is an ingredient in tampons, although the United State's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declares asbestos has never been detected in tampons. The FDA does admit there might be trace amounts of dioxin in tampons, however. Dioxin is chemical by-product of the bleaching process, and the materials in tampons are usually bleached. Studies of dioxin have indicated potential links to endometriosis, infertility, and cancer in women.
I never was gone on the idea of swimming while on my period, anyway. Actually, the cup idea sounds better, since, as I understand it, the cups don't leak.
A cold swimming pool never sounded as appealing as a hot tub, since I had monster cramps. But I rarely had access to either one, on my period or off, so mostly, it was a moot point for me.
Still, I would think twice before getting in the pool, depending on how heavy my flow was that day. When I was a teenager, a super-plus absorbency tampon and a pad only lasted a little while if it was a heavy flow day.
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