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How to deal with periods at school

Here at Team Cheeky, a lot of us are parents to tween and teenage children, so we completely understand that dealing with periods at school can be challenging.

No matter how much we try to empower our girls and young women and reassure that there's nothing to be embarrassed about, there's still the awkward factor. Not just about whether they come on unexpectedly, but also how to deal with it without drawing attention to themselves. Maybe there are groups of girls hanging out in the loos, or certain teachers have very strict toilet break policies.

We've asked the experts, including teachers and school senior management who deal with this regularly, plus parents and teens and we've compiled our ultimate guide for how to deal with periods at school, covering:


How to deal with periods at primary school

The best way to deal with periods at primary school is:

Period Starter Kit

Talk to your child

Open communication is absolutely key in dealing with periods at primary school and making them free of embarrassment . That means talking to your child (both boys and girls) about periods from an early age, letting them know that it's natural and normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Some children start periods from 8 or 9 years of age, so chat to them well in advance of this.

Good ways of starting the conversation are whilst watching TV if period products are advertised. In my households, my daughter coming into the loo while I was dealing with my period was the conversation starter. I was able to show her what a period looked like and also show her my period pants and pads and let her know she didn't have to worry when it started for her.

Cheeky have developed our 'period hub' app which follows the PHSE curriculum and provides all the info about periods in a fun interactive format! 

It's really important to talk to your boys about this also. Explaining what it means and how they can be kind and considerate to classmates, rather than silly or annoying.

Talk to the school

That open communication should also be between school and parents. If your child starts their periods during primary school, let their teacher and school know so that they can be more accommodating for toilet breaks and ensure that your daughter knows who to go to for help or period supplies if there's any issues, such as the school nurse or school counselor.

Most schools in the UK will have period products available for those whose periods start unexpectedly. They'll usually have sanitary bins in all toilets from KS2 (Year 4) upwards and wash basins available too.

As their parent, in practical terms, 'be prepared' means looking out for signs that their periods might be about to start. Generally, they'll have started to develop breasts already, a sure sign that periods will be following along shortly. Also, taller / bigger girls anecdotally seem to start earlier.

Period Starter Kit

Create a period starter kit

Once you reach that stage, it's a great idea to have a 'be prepared' period starter kit in their school bag containing:

  • double wetbag to hold everything
  • period pants or pads
  • spare knickers
  • wipes

Our double wetbag is perfect for school usage and comes in a number of pretty designs. The larger pocket can contain 'supplies' whilst the smaller pocket is perfect for bringing dirty items home.

Period pants or pads are also a given. I asked my 11 year old daughter if she had any hints or tips for dealing with periods at school and she said 'wear period pants'. Living the brand!

But actually, providing period knickers for children is a great way of making periods easy at school. No tell-tale rustling of plastic when opening a pad nor any waste to dispose of. They're also great for those with sensory issues. They're just different pants that you wear when you've got your period. No biggie.

Period pants are available in both regular or as heavy flow period undies. They're made of layers of material to wick away wetness, absorb it and a waterproof layer to stop the blood soaking through. They're easy to care for too, just remember that they should never be washed in hot water, just cool water with some Oxi type stain remover is usually enough to get them clean.

It's also worth considering reusable sanitary pads instead of disposable pads. Cheeky Period pads come in heavy absorbency bamboo sanitary pads, cotton or organic cotton period pads. If your child suffers with particularly heavy periods, these are brilliant alongside our period pants, as they can simply be removed from knickers at lunchtime and either replaced, or if wearing period pants, the pants can be worn on their own for the rest of the day until home time.

We haven't recommended tampons or menstrual cups for primary aged children. Once they've got into the swing of dealing with their periods, they may well want to investigate internal period protection options, but period pants or pads are much easier for younger girls.

Don't assume that children have light periods. Your child may well have heavy periods. Some do, and we've heard some pretty graphic stories of children and teenagers with extremely heavy periods starting at school. So it's best to be prepared.

Wet wipes are also worth adding to this period starter kit. Our reusable intimate wipes can simply be wet with water and washed when home, meaning that a quick clean up is easy peasy.

If your child does swimming at school, period swimwear means that they no longer have to sit out the lesson, they can get on with things as usual!

Period Tracker App

Once they've started their periods, using a period tracker app can help them track their period and know roughly when they're due on. Also great for parents in helping recognise moodiness or irritability as a result of menstrual cycle PMT!

How to stop period cramps at school

The best way to stop period cramps and period pain at school is to take ibuprofen or paracetamol. According to the BMA, it's not necessary (and in fact a misuse of GP time) for painkillers to be prescribed by the GP. Schools are required to administer or allow children to self administer painkillers with written permission from parents, without a Dr's note.

Ideally, this would be held on file for your child by the school nurse, but it's also probably a good idea for your child to carry a copy themselves in case there's a cover teacher that may not know them so well. Depending on the age of your child and how well they can take tablets, a couple of sachets of calpol (ibuprufen) might be a great alternative to pills. Ibuprufen should always be taken with food.

Heating pads are brilliant for period cramps at home, but not much good for school unfortunately.

How to avoid leaking with a heavy period at school

Firstly, read our fantastic blog post about 'can you prevent leaks on your period'. In summary, to avoid leaking with a heavy period at school:

  • ensure you're wearing the right level of protection
  • change your protection regularly
  • wear period pants with absorbency to front and rear waistband as standard
  • make school aware so you can have a 'no questions' toilet pass

Wearing period protection suitable for heavy flow, whether that's period pants, pads or tampons is key. Regular protection just won't cut the mustard if you're prone to flooding.

Also, change your protection regularly, using both your break and lunch time to change pads or tampons if necessary.

If your periods are always heavy, ensure that school are made aware of this. Many schools can issue a 'no questions' pass to get to the bathroom whenever you need to.

Are period cramps a good excuse to stay home from school?

Well, the answer to whether period cramps are a good excuse to stay home from school is that it depends. Just as there's a world of difference between a normal headache and a migraine, there's also a world of difference between period cramping that can be managed with painkillers and the sort of period pain that has you doubled in two unable to move.

In some instances, a duvet day might be the best course of action, allowing your body to rest and recuperate. However if severe period pain is chronic and ongoing, then medical intervention is definitely required to prevent impacting on school and life in general.

How do you change your pad at school quietly?

I remember this so well from secondary school. Taking your pad into the loo and trying to unpeel it VERY carefully without rustling and letting the person in the cubicle next to you hear.

Thankfully times have moved on. Period pants and reusable sanitary pads don't rustle and if you need to change them during the day, they can simply be removed and popped into your wet bag for bringing home. Reusable Period pads even popper shut for discreet transporting!

What do you do if you don't have a pad at school?

If you're caught short without a pad at school, the best solution is to clean yourself up firstly. Then fold some toilet paper into a makeshift pad in your knickers to allow you to get to the school nurses office or wherever period products are kept at your school.

You'll be able to obtain a pad to tide you over until you get home. If you're not able to access period products at home either, please let your school know. In the UK, they are provided with period products by the government and should be able to help. In addition, many schools now have a selection of reusable period products, which can simply be washed, dried and worn again and again.

We hope this has been useful and you've enjoyed it!  If you have, you might also enjoy our posts on:


About the author: Helen Rankin is a Mum of 4, including two girls aged 13 and 11 who have both started their periods and a sister who was deputy headmistress of a grammar school and used to dealing with periods and teens daily! Helen founded Cheeky Wipes,  the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up and went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants and reusable sanitary pads. Her customer services team pride themselves on providing relatable friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.