How to use a tampon

You might feel a bit nervous the very first time you use a tampon, but don’t worry, that’s normal! It can be especially nervy if you are not fully sure about how to use a tampon properly. Read on to learn more about tampons and how to use them.

Tampons are small rolls of compressed cotton that women and girls use to absorb their menstrual flow (period). Tampons are inserted inside the vagina to absorb the blood, so the blood does not leak out of the body. Tampons come in different sizes. Some tampons have an applicator, which helps you to insert the tampon, and others don’t.

Tampons can be purchased in all supermarkets and at most local shops and pharmacies. A pack of 18 usually costs around €3, and a pack of 24 is about €4 or €5, depending on where you buy them. Tampons that do not have an applicator will usually be a bit cheaper.

Tampons have different levels of absorbency. Stronger tampons are usually used by women or girls who have heavier periods, and lighter tampons should be used by women or girls with lighter periods. When you are starting to use tampons, it is a good idea to use the lighter tampons. These are smaller in size and may be easier for you to insert.

It’s a good idea to use a mirror to look at your vulva, which is all of your female genitalia (parts) that you can see. The urethra is where your urine (pee) comes out, the anus is where feces (poo) come out and right in the middle is your vaginal opening. This is where you will insert the tampon. It’s normal to feel nervous the first time you use a tampon. It does get easier. Remember, the more you relax, the easier it will be. When you are nervous, your muscles tense up and this can make inserting a tampon more difficult.

Steps to inserting a tampon with an applicator:


  • Wash your hands before you begin. With dry hands, unwrap the tampon. If you drop the opened tampon on the floor, throw it in the bin and start again with a new tampon.
  • Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Some girls prefer to place one leg on the toilet seat, while others prefer to squat down. After you find a position that is most comfortable for you, hold the middle of the tampon (where the smaller, inner tube inserts into the larger, outer tube). Make sure that you can see the string and that it is pointing away from your body.
  • With your other hand, open the labia (the folds of skin around the vaginal opening) and position the tampon in the vaginal opening.
    Gently push the tampon into the vaginal opening and stop when the outer tube of the applicator, is completely inside the vagina.
  • Once the outer tube is inside your vagina, use your finger to push the inner tube (the tube where the string hangs from) through the outer tube. This pushes the tampon into the vagina.
  • Once the inner tube is all the way in, use your thumb and index finger to remove the applicator. Make sure that the string hangs outside of your vaginal opening. Later, when you are ready to remove the tampon, hold the string and gently pull it downward until the entire tampon is out.
  • Remember to wash your hands before and after you insert and remove a tampon.


The directions on how to use a non-applicator tampon are the same as above, but rather than inserting the applicator into your vagina, you simply insert the small cotton roll-like tampon into your vagina with your finger. Make sure that you push the tampon in far enough, so that it is comfortable and you cannot feel it, but make sure that the string is still hanging outside of the vagina.

If the tampon is inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel it inside your vagina. If the tampon feels uncomfortable you may have not inserted it properly, or it may not be inserted far enough into your vagina. If this happens, just remove the tampon and start again. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Practice makes perfect!

If you cannot put a tampon into your vagina after a few tries, you can make an appointment with your doctor. There are a few reasons why this might happen, but one reason is that some girls have a very small opening in their hymen (the skin around the entrance to the vagina), which can prevent them from using tampons. This is the case in a small percentage of teenage girls and it is important to get it checked out by your doctor.

Another reason that you might not be able to insert a tampon is if you are feeling nervous and your vaginal muscles are tense. If this is the case, try to relax. You can also try using a small amount of vaginal lubricant at the tip of the tampon. This will help it slide inside the vagina.

On a packet of tampons you may read about TSS. TSS stands for Toxic Shock Syndrome. It is very rare but can potentially be dangerous. TSS is an infection cause by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus. When a tampon is inside the vagina, it creates an environment for bacteria to grow, and this is how TSS can develop.
The likelihood is that you will never get TSS, but it is important to know the symptoms and how to avoid putting yourself at risk of TSS.

Make sure your hands are clean when inserting a tampon and that you do not cut yourself with your fingernails when inserting the tampon.

Change your tampon every 4-6 hours, or more often if you need to.

Choose the right tampon. Use smaller/lighter absorbency tampons if your period is lighter. TSS occurs more often when super-absorbent tampons are used. Only use super-absorbent tampons if you have a very heavy flow.

Don’t leave tampons in overnight. Use pads instead. Only use tampons to absorb menstrual blood (period). Do not use tampons to absorb vaginal discharge. Only insert the tampon once the period has started and you can see the menstrual blood. Do not insert a tampon before your period.

*If you have symptoms of TSS while wearing a tampon, remove the tampon straight away and contact a doctor. If you have a temperature, dizziness or vomiting, you should go to the hospital straight away. The symptoms can be similar to the flu, but if you are on your period and using a tampon, it might be symptoms of TSS. It could however be symptoms of another infection, either way, you should see your doctor.

Symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (muscle aches, headache, redness of your eyes, mouth, and throat)
  • Sudden high fever
  • Dizziness, fainting, or lightheadedness
  • Vomiting
  • A sunburn-like rash
  • Diarrhoea

Remember – it is very unlikely that you will ever get TSS, but it is important to know the symptoms, just in case.