tampon n : plug of cotton or other absorbent material; inserted into wound or body cavity to absorb exuded fluids (especially blood) v : plug with a tampon
A tampon is a plug of cotton or other absorbent material inserted into a body cavity or wound to absorb bodily fluid. The most common type in daily use (and the topic of the remainder of this article) is a usually disposable plug that is designed to be inserted into the vagina during menstruation to absorb the flow of blood. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates tampons as normal medical devices.
HistoryAs a medical device, the tampon, (from the French for plug, or stopper) has been around since the 19th century, when antiseptic cotton tampons treated with salicylates were used to stop the bleeding from bullet wounds, and there have been reports of modern menstrual tampons being used for the same purpose by soldiers in the Iraq War.
The tampon with an applicator and string was invented in 1929 and submitted for patent in 1931 by Dr. Earle Haas, an American man from Denver, Colorado. Tampons based on Dr. Haas' design were first sold in the U.S. in 1936 by Tampax. Later, the expansible tampon was invented in 1974 (patent in 1976) by world-renowned OB/GYN, Dr. Kermit E Krantz.
Design and packagingTampons come in various sizes, which are related to their absorbency ratings and packaging.
The shape of all tampons is basically the same; long rounded cylinders. Tampons sold in the United States are made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two. Tampons are sold individually wrapped to keep them clean, although they are not sterile, nor are tampon companies required by law to list the ingredients in them. They have a string for ease of removal, and may be packaged inside an applicator to aid insertion.
Tampon applicators may be made of plastic or cardboard, and are similar in design to a syringe. The applicator consists of a bigger tube and a narrower tube. The bigger tube has a smooth surface and a round end for easier insertion. Some applicators have a star shape opening at the round end, others are open ended. The tampon itself rests inside the bigger tube, near the open end. The narrower tube is nested inside the other end of the bigger tube. The open end of the bigger tube is placed and held in the vagina, then the narrower tube is pushed into the bigger tube (typically using a finger) pushing the tampon through and into the vagina. If not inserted at a 45 degree angle it can cause discomfort and make removal difficult.
Digital or non-applicator tampons are tampons sold without applicators; these are simply unwrapped and pushed into the vagina with the fingers. Stick tampons are also available.
Probiotic tampons are available in Europe. These tampons can help prevent or cure vaginal infections, like Bacterial Vaginosis and/ or Candida, by strengthening the natural microbiotic vaginal flora. These tampons include probiotics, or three strains of lactic acid bacteria, which naturally occur in the healthy vagina. The vaginal flora of a healthy woman is dominated by lactic acid bacteria, which produce lactic acid as part of their metabolism. The lactic acid makes the vagina acidic, about pH 3.8 to 4.2. Most pathogens do not thrive in such an acidic environment. Therefore, lactic acid bacteria are part of the human female's first line of defense against infection.
Absorbency ratingsTampons are available in several different absorbency ratings, which are consistent across manufacturers in the U.S.:
- Junior absorbency: 6 grams and under
- Regular absorbency: 6 to 9 grams
- Super absorbency: 9 to 12 grams
- Super plus absorbency: 12 to 15 grams
- Ultra absorbency: 15 to 18 grams
- Mega absorbency: 19+ grams
BenefitsTampons are a menstrual device worn completely inside the vaginal canal with the exception of the string. This makes them suitable for wear during activities such as swimming. Menstrual blood is not exposed to the air with the use of tampons, so there is limited odor. There is no way to see that a woman is using a tampon when she is clothed, unlike sanitary napkins, which have outlines that can sometimes be seen through fabric. As a disposable product, there is no need to wash anything in between use.
Toxic shock syndromeTampons have been shown to have a connection to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but sometimes fatal disease caused by bacterial infection. The U.S. FDA suggests the following guidelines for decreasing the risk of contracting TSS when using tampons:
- Follow package directions for insertion
- Choose the lowest absorbency needed for one's flow
- Change the tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours
- Consider alternating disposable or cloth pads with tampons
- Avoid tampon usage overnight when sleeping
- Increase awareness warning signs of toxic shock syndrome
Following these guidelines can help to protect a woman from TSS, and cases of tampon connected TSS are extremely rare in the United States.
Other health concerns
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