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.”
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