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A tampon is a mass of absorbent material (typically cotton, rayon, or a mixture of the two) inserted into a body cavity or wound to absorb bodily fluid. The most common type in daily use (also the main focus of this article) is designed to be inserted into the vagina during menstruation to absorb the flow of menstrual fluid. Several countries—including the United States, under the banner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—regulate tampons as medical devices. In the United States, tampons are a Class II medical device. The word "tampon" originated from the medieval French word tampion, meaning a piece of cloth to stop a hole, a stamp, plug, or stopper.
Design and packaging
Tampons come in various shapes and colors, which are related to their absorbency ratings and packaging. The outward appearance of a tampon is similar for all brands, but their absorbency varies. The two main differences are in the way the tampon expands when in use; for example applicator tampons such as Tampax tampons and Natracare tampons will expand axially (increase in length), while OB, Natracare and Lil-lets digital tampons will expand radially (increase in diameter). All tampons have a cord for removal and some have an additional outer cover to aid insertion and withdrawal. Some women prefer to use a tampon which is contained within an applicator to further aid insertion. The majority of tampons sold are made of rayon, or a blend of rayon and cotton. Organic cotton tampons are made from only 100% cotton. Tampons are sold individually wrapped to keep them clean.
The tampon itself sits inside the outer tube, near the open end. The inner tube is encased inside the outer tube and held in place by a locking mechanism. The outer tube is inserted into the vagina, then the inner tube is pushed into the outer tube (typically using a finger) pushing the tampon through and into the vagina.
Digital or non-applicator tampons are tampons sold without applicators; these are simply unwrapped and pushed into the vagina with the fingers. Tampons can range in size from 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches.
2 water drop marks mean that the absorbency is between 6 and 9 grams.
A piece of test equipment referred to as a Syngina (Short for synthetic Vagina) is usually used to test absorbancy. The machine uses a condom into which the tampon is inserted, and synthetic menstrual fluid is fed into the test chamber.
Cordless tampons are tampons without a string that fulfil the same function as normal tampons. They look like a small sponge, and are implemented inside the vagina and close off the neck of the uterus so that no blood enters the vagina. The tampons are placed very far into the vagina, and can remain inserted during sexual intercourse, as opposed to a menstrual cup. The tampons do not protect against sexually transmitted disease nor pregnancies.
The tampons are not visible when worn, so the user can go swimming or participating in any other sport. The tampons are available either dry or wet. The wet tampon is packed wet and can be used directly, while the use of the dry tampon requires a lubricant. Some varieties have a small hole in the tampon to ease its removal, however all tampons (cordless or otherwise) absorb vital vaginal lubrication during menstruation.
Toxic shock syndrome
Main article: Toxic shock syndrome
Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at the New York University Medical Center, who helped determine that tampons were behind toxic shock syndrome (TSS) cases in the early 1980s, blames the introduction of higher-absorbency tampons in 1978, as well as the relatively recent decision by manufacturers to recommend that tampons can be worn overnight, for increased incidences of toxic shock syndrome. Materials used in most modern tampons are so highly absorbent that they pose the risk of absorbing the vagina's natural discharge and upsetting its natural moisture balance, which is what enables toxic shock syndrome to occur. 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
Consider using cotton or cloth tampons rather than rayon
Change the tampon at least every 4 to 6 hours
Alternate between tampons and pads
Avoid tampon usage overnight or when sleeping
Increase awareness of the warning signs of toxic shock syndrome and other tampon-associated health risks. .