An allergic reaction to sanitary pads would likely cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction to anything else, including itching, redness, swelling, or skin irritation. Most often, these symptoms would occur in the genital region, although some severe reactions may cause symptoms over a broader area. Signs of a severe reaction, although rare, would include severe swelling and trouble breathing.
It is relatively rare that a woman would have an allergic reaction to pads. When it does occur, it is most commonly linked to feminine pads that contain added fragrances. Sometimes, a reaction may occur in response to the chemicals used to make the pads absorbent. The first sign of a reaction is often vaginal itching and irritation, and this may be followed by redness or irritation. Women experiencing these symptoms while using pads should switch to a different item and contact a healthcare professional.
More severe allergic reactions may lead to breathing problems, wheezing, or severe swelling. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medication attention immediately, since this type of reaction could cause severe complications or even death.
Women who think they may be allergic should first check the product package. If there are scents or fragrances in the product, the best course of action is to switch to a variety without them. When there are not added fragrances, switching to another brand may resolve the problem, since different manufacturers may use different additives or chemicals. Once the offending pads are removed, symptoms should subside relatively quickly. If irritation or itching persists, another condition may be to blame.
There are alternatives on the market for women who prefer to reduce the risk of developing an allergic reaction to pads. Real cotton pads are available, many of which are organic, and they come in a wide range of colors and absorbency. They are also reusable and environmentally friendly, so these pads may cost less long-term. Feminine cups, which are placed inside of the vagina to catch liquid, are also sold, and many women find them to be highly effective.
This type of allergic reaction can cause many of the same symptoms as other conditions. Itching, redness, and general irritation could also signal a vaginal infection. Using scented products makes getting an infection more likely, so if switching products doesn't relieve the symptoms, a visit to a medical professional is in order for additional testing. Hives, although commonly caused by an allergic reaction, may look similar to genital warts and should also be checked by a medical professional.
Scented vs. Unscented Pads
Many people prefer scented pads because they can mask the smell of menstrual blood. As a result, people who use unscented pads often worry about their body odor.
Fortunately, scented pads are not the only way to eliminate menstrual-related body odor. In reality, these fragrances are more of a cosmetic preference than a necessity.
As long as you bathe regularly and change your pads often, unscented pads can be just as effective as scented ones.
How To Treat Allergic Reactions to Pads
While rarely life-threatening, allergic reactions to pads can cause a lot of discomfort.
Here are a few ways you can manage your symptoms when dealing with an allergic reaction:
- Switch to unscented pads or use a different menstrual product altogether.
- Apply an over-the-counter rash cream to the affected areas.
- Wash the vulva with warm water. Do not use perfumed soap in or near the vagina.
- Try to avoid scratching the rash-affected areas, as this will only worsen the skin irritation.
- Avoid wearing skinny jeans or any other tight garments around the groin.
For severe allergic reactions, more intensive treatment may be necessary. If your allergic reaction is severe or does not improve, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Other Possible Causes of Rashes
Allergic reactions are not the only cause of rashes on the vulva. If your allergic reaction symptoms do not improve after changing menstrual products, another condition may be the cause.
Here are a few common causes of rashes in the genital area. If you are at all uncertain about the cause of your symptoms, it may be time to visit a gynecologist.
People who are pregnant, have weakened immune systems, or have diabetes are at a higher risk of yeast infections.
A few different STIs/STDs can cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. These include:
- Pubic lice
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
People who have been sexually active and are experiencing symptoms of these infections should consider STD testing.
Poor Menstrual Hygiene
Poor menstrual hygiene can often cause rashes on the vulva.
Bathing regularly and changing menstrual pads often will help reduce the risk of rashes. Wearing loose underwear and pants can also prevent bacteria and sweat from building up in menstrual pads.
The vagina is self-cleaning, so douches or other vaginal-cleaning products are unnecessary and can do more harm than good. Gently rinsing the vulva with warm water is enough to keep it clean.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause bumpy, red, and itchy patches of skin. It is not an STI, and it is not contagious.
People with psoriasis will experience these rashes on all parts of their bodies, including their genitals. So if you have psoriasis, it may be the cause of the rashes in your vaginal area.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
People who use tampons or menstrual cups should be wary of toxic shock syndrome, a rare condition that causes symptoms similar to an allergic reaction.
Toxic shock syndrome comes from staph bacteria building up in the body and creating dangerous toxins. Frequently changing tampons and washing menstrual cups are the best ways to reduce the risk of this life-threatening condition.
Can Other Menstrual Products Cause Allergic Reactions?
Pads are not the only menstrual products that can cause allergic reactions, so be cautious when switching from pads to another menstrual product.
Tampons frequently cause allergic reactions. Like pads, they can contain many ingredients that irritate the skin. However, fragrance-free tampons are less likely to cause these reactions.
Menstrual cups can trigger allergic reactions, too. These products typically have silicone material, and cheaper ones can also have rubber or latex in their ingredients. So if you are allergic to any of the materials in menstrual cups, those could also cause an allergic reaction.
Anything can be an allergy trigger, so finding the right menstrual products for your needs may require some trial and error. If you are having trouble finding menstrual pads that don’t cause allergic reactions, consider seeking advice from your gynecologist.