Wearing a tampon when swimming is safe. In fact, tampons are one of the few options available for swimming during menstruation. Sanitary pads cannot be used in swimming pools as they absorb water instead of menstrual flow, resulting in a bulky, soggy pad that is at risk of coming off the swimsuit. Leaking menstrual flow in the pool is another realistic result of using a pad instead of a tampon when swimming.

Tampons come in a variety of sizes and absorbances, ranging from light to super based on the volume of a woman’s menstrual flow. They are made from cotton, rayon, or a mixture of both. Tampons are inserted through the woman’s finger or a plunger-type applicator that pushes the absorbent material into the vagina. As they are used internally, using a tampon when swimming is the only effective menstrual option other than a menstrual cup.

Menstrual cups are not as common as tampons, although they work in a similar way. This product is made of silicone, rubber or thermoplastic rubber and is inserted through the woman’s fingers into the vagina. Menstrual cups can be used for several hours at a time and can also be washed and reused.

There are some health risks associated with using tampons. The most recognized health risk is toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a bacterial infection associated with leaving a tampon on for too long or using a tampon that is more absorbent than necessary. Symptoms of TSS include vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and fainting, and a rash that looks similar to a sunburn. In some cases, TSS led to death.

Other concerns related to tampons are the use of the ingredients dioxin and asbestos. Rumors have circulated that asbestos, a carcinogen, is an ingredient in tampons, although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that asbestos has never been detected in tampons. However, the FDA admits that there may be traces of dioxin in the tampons. Dioxin is a chemical by-product of the bleaching process, and tampon materials are often bleached. Studies with dioxins have indicated possible links with endometriosis, infertility and cancer in women.