Here’s What Really Happens If You Leave a Tampon in for Too Long

Of all the scary things that we were taught in school about health and puberty, toxic shock syndrome made the top five. Standing in a classroom full of 12-year-old girls, teachers made sure to rev up the horror factor for us.

Young ladies are taught at a young age at home and school about feminine hygiene, but this is one of those lessons that either stuck or didn’t. In some of the cases where it did stick, the daredevils in our menstrual cycle clan still decided to test the warnings about tampon time limits.

Sometimes it’s due to forgetfulness, sometimes not, but doctors want to remind us that this is not a healthy habit. AT. ALL. Leaving a tampon in too long can make you ill.

While the chances of someone getting toxic shock syndrome from tampons are extremely rare, – statistics have the number at 1 in 100,000 – the illness can be extremely debilitating, even to the point of death.

TSS can be caused by two different strains of bacteria: Staphylococcus a. or Streptococcus p. When left to stew for hours and hours in a moist environment like the vagina and blood, it’s a potential recipe for infection. The use of tampons and the chemicals in them contribute to creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

During the last few years, we’ve seen a reemergence of super-absorbent tampons, and a spike in TSS cases along with it. Half of TSS cases involve menstruating women and a large percentage of them are linked to the use of super-absorbent tampons.

Once an infection starts to bubble up and hits the bloodstream, two things can happen: the body’s natural defenses wipe it out, or it doesn’t. Damage to vaginal tissues can occur along with the infection, worsening the condition and resulting in a longer healing time.

Many women won’t be affected at all and can carry on without ever experiencing TSS. But others whose immune systems aren’t able to knock it out may experience flu-like symptoms or signs like diarrhea, low blood pressure, or rashes.

To hear more, listen to the doctor in this video speak about the symptoms of TSS. If you have an unexplained fever or any of these other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Should you just have a case of a “lost tampon”, you can try to dislodge it on your own and follow up with a gentle douche (in this case only). In more severe cases or if you wind up with a non-TSS bacterial infection like BV or vaginitis, see your doctor for removal and treatment.

It is recommended for women to replace their tampons every 6-8 hours, and every 3-4 if a woman’s flow is much heavier. At night, it’s advised to wear a sanitary napkin while asleep.

Keeping a tampon in your body too long does not guarantee a TSS diagnosis, but it can increase the risk of getting it or another type of bacterial infection. Protect yourself and use tampons properly.

Were you aware of the consequences of toxic shock syndrome? Do you know someone who has experienced this severe infection?


Washington Post