The Risks of Going Commando

By Marcy Sugar

By Kathy Mitchell

October 26, 2010 5 min read

Dear Annie: My 19-year-old daughter came home for the summer after her first year of college. When I did her laundry, I couldn't help noticing there were no panties.

I was stunned when my daughter told me that she and many other girls at school had stopped wearing panties altogether. I asked if her clothes weren't getting ruined by staining from natural secretions, and she said they wear tampons.

Annie, I recall a lot of news reports about toxic shock syndrome. Women were getting it from wearing tampons without changing them frequently enough. Could my daughter be endangering herself? — Worried Mom of Britney Spears Wannabe

Dear Worried: We contacted J. Douglas Van Arsdale, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Here is his response:

Dear Worried Mom: The abrasive nature of pants, particularly if they are tight, would not make this a comfortable endeavor. However, chronically wearing a tampon may increase the risk of minor vaginal wall abrasions, and thereby increase the risk of HIV infection. Also, the absorbent nature of tampons would decrease lubrication.

A more dramatic concern is toxic shock syndrome. This is a rare event most often associated with super-absorbent tampons that have been left in place for extended periods of time. But one can never absolutely rule out this possibility. So I would recommend the following:

Have an exam by a gynecologist to be sure that she is healthy and has no sexually transmitted diseases. Make sure she knows how to use a condom and uses one every time she has sex. She may also need a lubricant. Be certain that she has been vaccinated for HPV. If she must go commando, she should use a low-absorbent tampon, and even then there may be a very low risk of toxic shock. And most importantly, stay away from the paparazzi.

Dear Annie: I've been married to "Bob" for three years. I love him dearly and get along with my in-laws. The problem is, he insists we spend every holiday with his family, which is stressful for me.

I don't handle large crowds well, and at these holiday functions, there are at least 30 people crammed into a house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We always stay at his folks' place for several days, and I am constantly uncomfortable.

I asked Bob if he would consider celebrating at least one holiday by ourselves, but he won't hear of it. He says his parents would be hurt. Thanksgiving will be here shortly, and I am already dreading it. Can you help? — Holiday Blues

Dear Holiday: Putting up with the in-laws at family gatherings is part of marriage. Although you shouldn't have to spend every holiday with Bob's family, if it is only a few days in November and December, please try to do your best. Having young children often provides an excuse not to travel so much. Right now, start with a compromise. If you can afford it, insist on staying at a hotel instead of at his parents' home, at least part of the time. This will give you some privacy and may provide you with the equanimity to tolerate the rest.

Dear Annie: Thank you for telling "Peg" that not all sex offenders are a threat to others.

In our small town, there is one person on the sex offender registry. During a party at his house, he stepped outside to urinate in the backyard. It was dark, but there was a child in the yard next door who apparently saw him and told his parents. The young man was convicted of being a sex offender, even though he was unaware of the child's presence. So not all registered sex offenders have sexually molested anyone, nor will they. — Small Town

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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