No allergy is fun, but being allergic to tampons and pads is a nightmare on a whole new level. As with many other allergies, there’s usually an itchy, painful red rash involved — except it’s on your nether regions. It may not be as obvious as you might think at first, but the good news is that you’re definitely not alone, says Dr. Gail King, MD, FACOG, author of Legs Up! The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide for Your Vagina, in an interview with Bustle. Even if you may sometimes feel like you’re the only one having these problems (a sense of isolation which may or may not have to do with the fact that our society seems to want to keep a lid on any conversation related to reproductive and women’s health), it’s really not just you.
I’ve used a particular type of pads ever since I started my period at the age of 13, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized the regular itching I experienced during my period probably wasn’t normal. And then, what started out as a simple itch during a period that lasted longer than usual blew up into the most uncomfortable, painful prickling on my vulva that I didn’t even know was possible.
I tried taking a nice, warm shower, to no avail. It was a bizarre experience, particularly because I’ve never thought of myself as having sensitive skin, so an allergy didn’t even cross my mind until I decided to apply topical cream and start using all-cotton pads from the local drugstore. The itchy, red rash finally faded after a few days.
To those of you who’ve had similar experiences, I totally get it. Here’s what you should know if you’re tired of playing host to red sand dunes:
1. You May Be Allergic For Various Reasons
Most of the time, women aren’t allergic to just one or two ingredients in whatever they’re using. “Tampons and pads are highly processed products. They may have cotton, they may have other synthetic fibers but all of them are processed and sterilized with chemicals,” King says. For instance, one chemical often used to give paper towels, toilet paper, and pads their white color can lead to common allergic reactions in the vaginal area, a moist environment that readily absorbs substances into the skin.