Toxic Shock Syndrome, Infections: What If I Leave A Tampon In For Too Long?

Have you ever panicked and thought you might have left a tampon in? Or even lost one?

Leaving a tampon in for too long can lead to infections and rarely cause life-threatening toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus.  Each year toxic shock syndrome affects about 1 in 100,000 women. While the instructions on the tampon box encourage women to change their tampon every eight hours, sometimes people forget to change them or occasionally may lose them.

Leaving a tampon in for longer than 8-12 hours, can increase risk of infection or possibly TSS, according to Jessica Shepherd, a gynecologist.

“In general, if you leave a tampon in for too long it can create a breeding ground for bacteria and can increase risk of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis or possibly TSS," Shepherd said.  "For some women it comes down to a hygienic issue of making sure you change as often as possible."

If a woman believes she’s left a tampon in for too long, she should do a self-check or ask her partner to help see if the tampon may have gotten lost in her vagina. If she is unable to find it, but has vaginal discharge or a strange vaginal odor, it’s important to seek medical attention, Jennifer Wu, OBGYN, Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC said.

“People go to the ER all the time for lost tampons,” Wu said.  “Patients are always upset and worried about TSS, but it’s very rare and most of the patients have been fine.”

Wu said TSS symptoms include fever, rash and feeling extremely ill. She said the overall message is to avoid leaving the tampon in for too long and to remember that a bigger tampon doesn’t mean it can be left in longer.

And as for the often-asked question of whether it's ok to leave a tampon in over night?

“Usually they can put a tampon in before bed and change in the middle of the night, but it’s best to use the smallest tampon possible, Wu said. "Sometimes the tendency is to use a super tampon and leave it in a super long time, but better off changing it.”

© 2017 USA TODAY


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