Allergic to Tampons - Diagnosis can be the hardest part of the cure
Are you allergic to tampons? A users story on switching to our Bloom & Nora reusable sanitary pads.
No amount of period positivity can surf you though painful, heavy periods, but being allergic to tampons can give you a period nightmare on a whole new level. It doesn’t help that a lot of people don't talk about it, often putting it down to thrush, not changing the pad/tampon often enough etc and just tolerate it. It doesn't help either that some tampon companies suggest that itching is “most likely caused by a change in your vaginal PH”!
We spoke recently to one of our customers who made the switch to reusable sanitary pads after unknowingly suffering from allergies to some of the chemicals in tampons and disposable pads for over 20 years. She wanted to remain anonymous as she found it quite embarrassing but was keen to share her story in the hope that it might help other sufferers:
What were your symptoms and when did they start?
From about the age of 15, I started to notice occasional discomfort and irritation ‘down below’. It never occurred to me that I could be allergic to tampons and I put up with it for years.
What did you do about it?
I saw various gynaecologists during that time who were all baffled. They could see that the skin was often red & inflamed but all of their tests came back negative. I eventually got referred to a dermatologist but, again, tests for thrush etc were negative so they just prescribed moisturisers and told me I had sensitive skin and off I went.
When did you begin to think it could be an allergy?
On a recommendation from a friend, I finally booked myself into the Chinese Medicine Centre in Glasgow. The Doctor there took one look at the area and immediately told me it was not a gynaecological issue but was, in fact, a form of eczema. He gave me herbs to make a tea, which made me violently sick. He said this highlighted the fact that my whole system was out of alignment and I needed to restore the balance. After that, I went for my smear test at the Family Planning Clinic and I mentioned his diagnosis. They agreed to perform a biopsy and, sure enough, it came back confirming that I had Contact Dermatitis. I was prescribed strong steroid creams to be used when I had flare-ups. At that point I cut out fragranced products, stopped having hot baths, stopped using an electric blanket in bed; I just wore white cotton underwear and I only used soft white toilet roll. I also stopped using softener for washing clothes, and I used fragrance-free, non-biological, enzyme-free laundry liquid. This made a difference but the problem still persisted. I was at the point I’d suffered for over 20 years and seen multiple specialists when a dermatologist told me I was over-using the steroid creams and I had consequently thinned the skin, making the problem worse! They then agreed then to refer me for an in-depth allergy analysis which consisted of a series of patch tests carried out at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. It was them that I received the diagnosis, I was allergic to chemicals and fragrances used in tampons and other hygiene products.
What are the chemicals you are allergic to?
I have true allergies to DMDM hydantoid (1) & Sorbic acid (2), and sensitivity to fragrance and benzoates(3). The Doctors at that point encouraged me to be very conscious of all the products I use. I had never heard of these chemicals before but on close examination of the labels on my shampoo, conditioner & shower gel bottles, I realised they were in every single one - including the expensive fancy ones and the ‘natural’ fragrance-free products. It was then I realised that my flare-ups could be traced to sanitary products, condoms, coarse or fragranced toilet roll - all sorts of things that down below was coming in to contact with.
How did you get on with Bloom & Nora?
My friend gave me a Bloom & Nora trial pad and I loved the whole concept of the company. I found the pads much more slim-line than I expected and they were very comfortable to wear. The popper fastening kept the pads in place and I liked having the protection of the wings, plus it was great being able to just pop it in the wash at the end. Thankfully, it caused me no irritation whatsoever, which is the main thing for me. The added bonus is that I’m really keen to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our household and I feel terribly guilty when I think of all the disposable wipes, nappies, tampons and sanitary towels I’ve used over the years. It’s tricky to find a balance when you’ve got a busy life - of course, we all want convenience, but it’s important that we consider where it all ends up. The fact that I know I’m reducing the amount I send to landfill is definitely a big bonus. I have been converted! And I’d highly recommend the reusable sanitary pads to friends. Sometimes, we just have to break the habits of a lifetime and give something else a try. I’m certainly glad I did!
Find out more about out Bloom & Nora reusable sanitary pads here an try for yourself today.
(1) DMDM hydantoid is a chemical used in personal hygiene products to preserve shelf life by inhibiting microbial and fungal growth. It works by releasing formaldehyde over. This can be found in tampons and sanitary pads, feminine washes and wipes. It addition to being a known allergen, it is carcinogenic.
(2) Sorbic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is used as a preservative to inhibit fungal growth in cosmetics, sanitary pads and in tampons to help prevent toxic shock. Can cause irritations but is rare to cause allergies.
(3) Benzoates used in tampons to inhibit pathogenic bacterial growth, to help prevent toxic shock syndrome, each tampon can contain up to 30 miligrams of benzoates. Can be an irritant to mucous membranes.
SOURCES Info on Benzoates