When you first get your period, it’s pretty baffling to even try and imagine how you would forget to take out your tampon.
But fast-forward 10 years and approximately 120 periods and 1,800 tampons later – seriously, wt ACTUAL f?! – and it’s easy to lose track of the last time you changed it up.
And then, suddenly, you get that That’s So Raven look in your eyes as you frantically try and calculate how far past the recommended eight hours you’ve been plugged up.
Chances are your brain is going straight to that horror story you heard as a young ‘un about TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) but leaving your tampon in a little too long can actually have more than one side effect.
1. Toxic Shock Syndrome
Let’s start with the hefty one, shall we? Despite having the ever-living crap scared out of you about this potentially fatal disease, there are less than 18 reported cases per 100,000 menstruating females each year. Teenagers and women under 30 are most likely to contract TSS – which occurs by a build-up of bacteria on a tampon that has been left in for too long – but chances are you haven’t.
Some symptoms to look out for, though, are a high fever, low blood pressure and flushed skin, which may look like you’ve been scalded by boiling water. If you’re in doubt, tap your doctor.
2. A Nasty Smell
You’ve probably noticed it yourself but, according to Dr Mary Jane Minkin, an ob-gyn and professor at Yale University, the “fishy” smell of a tampon that has been left in too long is so distinctive that doctors can usually pick what’s wrong without being told.
The odour isn’t so much because of old blood as it is the bacteria building up as time goes on.
3. All Dried Up
If a tampon is left in for too long, Dr Minkin says, the surrounding vaginal tissue can become dry and make you feel uncomfortable. It can also make it damn near impossible to put the next tampon in.
Best thing to do if you’ve been tampon-ing for a couple hours too long is plump for a pad and give your V a rest. You could also use a little lube to get things ~moving~ down there again, too, if you feel like it.
4. Unusual Discharge
If your tampon is being overworked – as in it has absorbed all it possible can – then you’re probably going to leak a little. This can appear as a thin, watery brown substance. The older the blood is, the duller and browner it will be in colour, so pay attention. It may be an indicator that it’s time to swap things out.
5. Waaay Too Much Stress
If it’s only been an hour or two past the recommended removal time you should be fine, but forgetting your tampon for more than a day can seriously ramp up your anxiety and stress levels. In which case the best thing you can do is head to your doctor or gyno; they’ll be able to reassure you and can even do a culture swab to check for bacteria present.
Of course, since it’s 2016, there’s literally an app for everything so, if you’re a little more on the forgetful side, downloading something like Tampon Timer can help you keep track of your tricksy little tamps.
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