When I was 13 sanitary napkin companies started adding fragrance to their products (I know, this is dating me!). I didn't realize, and used a pad overnight - when I woke up the next morning, it felt like my vulva was ON FIRE. I had no idea what was going on, so I took a shower, and put on another pad. 3 hours later I thought I might die from the pain, so I told my mom (you know it's bad if a teenager has to ask her conservative mother for help with her private bits!). My mother was the bright one who connected my reaction to the pads, which we immediately terminated. Unfortunately, by this point my skin had bubbled up like a 3rd degree sunburn and was peeling in big pieces - so we went to the doctor.
I will never forget what the doctor said. She put my legs up in the stirrups, slapped a bit of petroleum jelly on her fingers, and then just stared in silence for a long minute. Then she said "Well, I'm sure I've never seen ANYTHING like that in my career!" She was afraid anything she would give me topically would make the reaction worse, so she gave me an oral corticosteroid and told me to take oatmeal baths at home.
It took several weeks for the skin to fully heal, and for the first 5 days the only time I wasn't in burning pain was when I was sitting in the oatmeal bath. That experience was enough for me to swear off all non-organic pads for life! However, over the years since then when I've been a little tight for cash I've bought store brand unscented pads (the ones WITHOUT "scent block" technology) and never had a problem.
Recently I switched to cloth pads (I have an IUD so I'm just a little bit scared to try the menstrual cup, but maybe I'll get there someday), then promptly forgot to pack them for my holiday travels. And what do we know about traveling without sanitary products? It's the murphy's law of the uterus - if you forget to bring sanitary products, you WILL get your period. Even if you are irregular/PCOS like me and hardly ever get them. Ugh.
Well due to the holidays (I'm in the states) I wasn't able to get to an open store to purchase unscented pads. I thought, well, it's been YEARS since I've had a problem, and borrowed a pad with "scent block technology" from a friend. Well, within 3 hours I felt a slight itching around my vulva. We were in the middle of visiting so I ignored it. At hour 5 it had intensified to a burning sensation and I made the connection that it was probably the pad.
I ran to the bathroom to take off the pad and found that my skin was ALREADY blistered and peeling slightly. Not nearly as bad as when I was 13, but bad enough! I had to awkwardly excuse myself from the festivities, ask the host to take a shower, and improvise a cloth pad from one of my significant other's cotton tee shirts. The next day I managed to get some organic pads and aloe (the kind for sunburns). A week later I'm finally getting back to normal.
Gotta love the vulva around the holidays!