What Happens If You Leave a Tampon In For Days?

Don’t you hate it when your ex spreads rumors about you? That’s what Snooki, the Jer­sey Shore star, is deal­ing with this week. Her for­mer boyfriend attacked her hygiene on myex.com, a web­site devoted to trash­ing exes. The charm­ing gen­tle­man wrote that his real­ity TV star ex used to “[leave] the same tam­pon in for days!”

His claim is dis­turb­ing, and not just because it’s dis­gust­ing (and totally unsub­stan­ti­ated) gos­sip meant to humil­i­ate the Snook­ster. See, if it’s true, it’s just more evi­dence that you should never, ever do as Snooki does—because it could actu­ally kill you.

Leav­ing a tam­pon in for days puts you at risk for get­ting toxic shock syn­drome (TSS), an infec­tion, sim­i­lar to a staph infec­tion, caused by the absorbent mate­r­ial found in san­i­tary prod­ucts, says Laura Corio, MD, an OBGYN at Mount Sinai Med­ical Cen­ter in New York City. Accord­ing to the Mayo Clinic, there are two ways super-absorbent tam­pons cause TSS: When they are left in place for a long time, they can become a breed­ing ground for bac­te­ria. Addi­tion­ally, the absorbent fibers can scratch the sur­face of the vagina, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for bac­te­ria or their tox­ins to enter the bloodstream.

We’re not see­ing as many cases [of TSS] as we used to because they’ve dis­con­tin­ued the super-absorbent tam­pons that pri­mar­ily cause the issue,” Corio says. But it’s still some­thing that hap­pens to women occa­sion­ally, and can result in fever, drop in blood pres­sure, fluff­ing of the skin on the hands and feet, and, yes, even death.

Obvi­ously, most women don’t elect to leave their tam­pons in for longer than the rec­om­mended 8 hours (because even with­out fear of death, it’s just gross). But it’s not unheard of—or even uncommon—for women to sim­ply for­get. “Any­body could for­get,” Corio says. “You go to the ladies room and think to your­self, ‘I took out my tam­pon,’ only to find that’s not the case.” And, in other instances, you may even put another tam­pon in—forgetting you had one in to begin with—causing the orig­i­nal one to travel fur­ther inside you. Yikes.

Let’s say that hap­pens: Don’t freak out entirely, because it won’t get lost in there. “The vagina is a closed sys­tem,” Corio says. “There is no where else it can go. It will never go into your abdomen.”

While com­fort­ing to know your tampon’s trav­els are local, how do you know it’s in there at all? You won’t be able to feel it, but oh, you’ll know. A way­ward tam­pon will smell pretty terrible…pretty quickly. “The smell is so char­ac­ter­is­tic,” Corio says. “Most women come to the office with extremely smelly dis­charge, and we know almost right away that it’s from a tampon.”

And, yes, if you find your­self in this sit­u­a­tion, you have to go to the doc­tor. “Most peo­ple try to get it out them­selves, but it’s so wedged,” Corio says. “You should just sched­ule an appoint­ment.” If you’re embar­rassed, you shouldn’t be. “We see this every few months,” Corio says. “It’s actu­ally pretty common.”

photo: Splash News

More from WH:
Get Fresh Tips for a Happy Vagina
Female Anatomy: Your Ulti­mate Guide
How to Pre­pare for Your Gyno Visit

Mas­ter mouth­wa­ter­ing recipes that fill you up and slim you down with Cook Your­self Sexy, the ulti­mate guide to a hot­ter, health­ier, and more con­fi­dent you.

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