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The One Tampon Complication Can Be Life-Threatening

The One Tampon Complication Can Be Life-Threatening

Can you really leave one in too long?

The tampon was invented in 1929 by Dr. Earl Haas, and many women immediately found it to be a more convenient option. But having your period was a taboo topic and when buying tampons or other menstrual products, women had to deposit money in a box elsewhere in the store, rather than interact with a salesperson.

While periods aren’t quite as taboo today, they’re still an uncomfortable topic for many people. But here’s one reason to talk about them: Using tampons can trigger a rare, life-threatening complication from a bacterial infection—toxic shock syndrome (TSS). And the risk for TSS goes up if you use tampons incorrectly.

A new French study says that modern tampons and menstrual cups do a good job of controlling the growth of S. aureas, the bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome (TSS). But with stats showing the frequency of TSS on the rise, the authors of the study say women should practice “short tampon use and frequent changing.”

There’s a catch: Researchers previously discovered that every time you change a tampon, you introduce more oxygen into the area and that helps S. aureus bacteria thrive. That’s what led the CDC to update its guidelines in the early 1980s from changing a tampon every two hours to every four to six.

So, what should you do? We recommend you don’t change them too frequently, use low-absorbency ones (perhaps with small pads) and don’t use more than one at a time.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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