When you wear tampons, it’s sometimes difficult to make sure they’re only worn for the recommended amount of time to safely avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which occurs when a tampon worn in the body too long becomes toxic and potentially fatal in the system. We all know that we should only wear a tampon for about 8 hours at the most, but how long is too long? Is going 9 or 10 hours pushing the envelope? When we work 8 hour days and don’t always have time to make THAT visit to the restroom, a tampon can be left in for a few extra hours. Is this safe, or are we toying with danger? Since every woman I know (myself included) has danced to this tune, I really wanted to find out what dangers we pose against ourselves (if any) if we leave in a tampon longer than recommended, and how long we can wear a tampon before we really need to be cautious. Here is what I’ve learned.
According to Tampax (tampax.com) a tampon can be worn up to 8 hours on the lowest absorbency tolerated while sleeping. Otherwise, choose the best absorbency for your period flow and go between 4 and 8 hours max. If you are sleeping for longer than 8 hours, wear a pad instead, and always put in a fresh tampon right before bed and remove it upon waking up immediately to avoid TSS.
The website further recommended alternating pads and tampons throughout a single period to reduce risks of TSS. So the consensus thus far is DO NOT go over 8 hours, and only if you have to at the lowest absorbency you can tolerate. But what do Gynecologists say?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests changing a tampon every 4 to 6 hours for the best and safest protection, and recommends changing pads or panty liners just as often. This way, a menstruating female can best avoid bacterial vaginosis, TSS and other irritations due to not changing out their period protection often.
But if you wore your tampon for, say, 12 hours, are you going to get TSS? For how ample the warnings about getting TSS from tampons, the Mayo Clinic states that roughly half of TSS cases occur in women who are not menstruating, rather, TSS occurs most often after surgery when wounds and healing scars get infected in women, children, and men. Anyone with a staph or strep infection can get TSS, according to the Mayo Clinic. So wearing a tampon for a longer period than recommended is not the main reason for getting TSS. It can happen to anyone.
However, it went on to say that wearing a tampon with a larger absorbency than needed, or leaving it in for a period longer than, once again, 8 hours, could increase a female’s chances of her tampon creating bacteria in her vagina that could lead to TSS.
But the question fails to be completely answered- can you leave in a tampon for longer than 8 hours safely? Well, I could find no medical documents to support anything other than 8 hours max (6 at the most, typically recommended), so I guess, no, you really can’t. But I guess that question can also be left to the ladies. How long have you ever left a tampon in? And were you OK because of it? I don’t believe any medical professional would congratulate you on sporting the same tampon for half a day, but I personally don’t think you’re going to automatically die if you go past that 8 hour mark.
But to be on the safe side, I’m going to do my best to keep my tampon wearing at 8 hours or less. Why risk it?