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10 Ways You’re Using Tampons

10 Ways You’re Using Tampons Wrong

You think you know all of the tampon rules, but you could be wrong. Here, the common mistakes people make while using them and what to do to keep your vagina free of infection and feeling good.

1. You only wash your hands after insertion.
Washing your hands before you get all up in there helps prevent contaminating your tampon on its way to your vagina, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a Westchester, New York-based gynecologist and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V.

2. You don't insert the tampon far enough.
You'll know because you'll feel it: A too-shallow tampon will be super uncomfortable — you may even feel the cotton edge at the entrance to the vagina, Dr. Dweck says. (You shouldn't sense anything when it's properly positioned.)

3. You only use one absorbency level of tampon.
Although unlikely, tampons can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a potentially deadly disease. Higher-absorbency tampons increase the risk of TSS, according to the Mayo Clinic, so it's smart to use them only when you absolutely need to stop a super-heavy flow, Dr. Dweck says. The amount of blood can change from day to day throughout your period. Though supers might be a godsend on days one and two of your cycle, you'll want to switch to a regular or light-absorbency product toward the end of the week.

4. You only change your tampon once a day.
Even with a light flow, you should change that bad boy every four to eight hours, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That's because a moist tampon makes a warm, cozy home for bacteria. And the longer it's in there, the greater your risk of TSS, Dr. Dweck says.

5. You use tampons to plug discharge.
Although it's normal to experience discharge in the middle of your cycle, you shouldn't need a tampon at that point. Stick it in, and you could disrupt the healthy vaginal bacteria that produce lactic acid, says Dr. Dweck. Reducing the vagina’s acidity can allow harmful bacteria to thrive and cause an infection, like bacterial vaginosis, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If discharge still feels excessive, don't just cork it; go to your doctor to get checked out.

6. You use a tampon the day after your period ends (just in case!).
Because pulling a dry piece of cotton out of an equally parched vagina can be more than a little uncomfortable, you should avoid this unnecessary precaution and pop in a pantyliner instead, Dr. Dweck says.

7. You don't change your tampon after you pee…on it.
From a medical perspective, you don't have to change your tampon every single time you relieve yourself, Dr. Dweck says. From a practical point of view: Who wants a soaking-wet string hanging out down there?

8. You don't change your tampon after you poop.
If that string picks up any bacteria, it easily could infect the urethra, Dr. Dweck says. Another thing: Moving your bowels can sometimes dislodge a tampon, which could make leaving it in uncomfortable.

9. You forget to take it out.
Yes, this happens IRL. If you develop a horrible odor that can't otherwise be explained, use a clean finger to feel around for a tampon. If for some reason you can’t pull it out, see a doctor, says Dr. Dweck.

10. You don't change your tampon after swimming.
When you take a dip, so does your tampon. A string that's laced with chlorine, saltwater, or lake water can cause skin irritation if you don't change it quickly, Dr. Dweck says. The good news is that normal bacteria found in a body of water — or even a hot tub — likely won’t cause an infection, she says.

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Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown

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