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What to do if you accidentally left a tampon in too long?

What are the risks of leaving a tampon in too long?

Leaving a tampon in for too long can increase your risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection caused by staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus bacteria. It is most commonly associated with tampon use, particularly when a tampon is left in place for longer than the recommended 4-8 hours.

The longer a tampon is left in place, the higher the risk of TSS. Bacteria can multiply rapidly in the presence of a tampon, releasing harmful toxins. These toxins can be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a sudden high fever, low blood pressure, rash, diarrhea, headache, sore throat and muscle aches. TSS can progress rapidly and lead to shock, organ failure and even death if not treated promptly.

Some of the signs and symptoms of TSS include:

– Sudden high fever (usually 102°F/38.9°C or higher)
– Vomiting and diarrhea
– Dizziness and fainting when standing up
– Confusion
– Seizures
– Rash that looks like sunburn, especially on palms and soles
– Redness of eyes, mouth and throat
– Muscle aches
– Low blood pressure

What should you do if you think you may have left a tampon in too long?

If you suspect you may have left a tampon in for too long, you should:

– Remove the tampon immediately. Wash your hands before removal.
– Check for signs of TSS like high fever, rash, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, confusion, muscle aches. Seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms are present.
– Monitor yourself carefully over the next 24 hours. Look out for fever, rash or any unusual symptoms.
– Avoid using tampons for your next cycle and use pads instead.
– Be aware of any vaginal odor or discharge, which could indicate infection. See a doctor if this occurs.
– Drink plenty of fluids to help flush out bacteria.

Even if you don’t have symptoms yet, it’s recommended to see a doctor right away if you suspect you may have left a tampon in for more than 8 hours. They can examine you and test for infection. Prompt antibiotic treatment is needed if TSS is diagnosed.

How can you prevent accidentally leaving a tampon in too long?

Here are some tips to help prevent forgetting a tampon:

– Change your tampon every 4-8 hours as recommended on the packaging.
– Choose the lowest absorbency needed for your flow to minimize risk.
– When inserting a new tampon, always check if the previous one was removed.
– Mark the time on your calendar when you last changed your tampon as a reminder.
– Set an alarm on your phone to change it.
– Before showering, make it a habit to do a self-check to ensure no tampon is still in place.
– Never use more than one tampon at a time.
– Avoid tampon use overnight – use pads if your flow is light.
– Be extra careful about changing tampons frequently during your heavy flow days.
– When your period ends, do a final self-check to ensure no tampon was forgotten.

What should you do if the forgotten tampon has caused an infection?

If the forgotten tampon has led to an infection such as TSS, it requires urgent medical treatment. You should:

– Seek emergency medical care immediately if you have symptoms like high fever, low blood pressure, confusion, rash, vomiting, diarrhea or red eyes.

– Be prepared to provide doctors details about your symptoms, when you last remember changing your tampon, and any underlying medical conditions.

– Get prescriptions for antibiotics filled right away. Usually IV antibiotics are given for 2-3 days followed by oral antibiotics for 7-10 days.

– Follow doctor’s orders carefully including getting plenty of rest, taking medication as directed, and returning for follow-up appointments.

– Avoid using tampons until the infection has fully cleared up. Stick to pads for your next few cycles.

– Drink lots of fluids, eat a balanced diet, and take probiotics to help restore healthy bacteria levels.

– Watch closely for any recurring symptoms and call your doctor if the infection doesn’t seem to be fully resolving. You may need further antibiotics or testing.

– Consider counseling or therapy if you have lingering anxiety about using tampons again. Discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Can a forgotten tampon lead to other complications?

In rare cases, a forgotten tampon can cause complications other than TSS, such as:

Bacterial vaginosis: An overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. Symptoms are gray, white or yellow discharge, fishy odor, itching and burning. Antibiotics are needed for treatment.

Yeast infection: A fungal infection causing thick, white, clumpy discharge, vaginal itching and redness. Treated with antifungal medication.

Toxic shock-like syndrome: Similar to TSS but caused by different strains of bacteria. Same serious symptoms occur requiring urgent medical care.

Vaginal ulcerations: The tampon can cause ulcerations and small tears in vaginal tissue which can increase risk of STIs.

Allergic reaction: In rare cases, some women may have localized allergic reactions to components in a tampon, like swelling, rash and itching.

Foreign body reaction: The tampon may cause granulation tissue to grow around it. This overgrowth of tissue requires surgical removal.

If any unusual symptoms arise after a forgotten tampon, it’s important to seek medical evaluation right away. Don’t hesitate to explain the situation to your doctor so they can diagnose and treat any complications.

How can you reduce the risk of complications from a forgotten tampon?

You can reduce complications by:

– Using the lowest absorbency tampon needed for your flow
– Changing your tampon every 4-8 hours
– Being extra diligent about changing during heavy flow
– Avoiding overnight tampon use when flow is light
– Checking for any tampon before inserting a new one
– Washing your hands before tampon removal
– Knowing the signs of TSS and seeking urgent care if any arise
– Seeing a doctor promptly even without symptoms
– Using pads, not tampons, until any infection has resolved
– Practicing proper vaginal hygiene like avoiding douches
– Not using tampons if you have an existing vaginal infection

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection caused by either Staphylococcus aureus or group A Streptococcus bacteria. It produces toxins that can enter the bloodstream and cause a sudden high fever and rapid drop in blood pressure leading to organ failure. TSS has a mortality rate of 5-15%.

TSS is most frequently associated with tampon use, particularly when a tampon is left inserted for longer than the recommended period of time (4-8 hours). The bacteria can multiply in the presence of a tampon and release toxins. However, TSS can also occur with other infections, wounds or medical devices.

The majority of TSS cases are menstruation-related. Women under 30 are at greatest risk. Using super absorbency and changing tampons infrequently increases risk. Up to 70% of menstruation-related cases are caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Symptoms of TSS usually appear suddenly and progress rapidly. They include:

– High fever (101°F/38.3°C or higher)
– Vomiting and diarrhea
– Low blood pressure/dizziness upon standing
– Sunburn-like rash on palms and soles
– Redness of eyes, mouth and throat
– Seizures
– Headaches, muscle aches and confusion
– Nausea

TSS requires urgent medical treatment with fluids, medications and supportive care. Most patients recover within 2 weeks but may have long-term effects like shedding of finger and toe nails 1-2 months later. Recurrence of TSS can also occur.


Leaving a tampon in too long significantly increases the risk of developing TSS and other potentially serious infections. Be vigilant about changing tampons regularly, avoiding overnight use, and checking before inserting a new one. Seek medical care right away if you have any symptoms of TSS like high fever or rash or think you may have left a tampon in too long. Prompt treatment is critical. To lower your risks, use proper hygiene, change tampons frequently, choose the lowest absorbency possible, and be extra cautious on heavy flow days.