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'I Forgot to Take My Tampon Out!'

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An OB/GYN eases our fears.


When a colleague admitted she had forgotten to take out her tampon for a few days and was now concerned she had Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), we were surprised at how many others chimed in that they too had forgotten a tampon at least once.

Toxic Shock gained notoriety in the late 1970s and early '80s when superabsorbent tampons, designed to be used for the duration of a period without removing or leaking, were marketed to women. Not long after, there was a spike in the number of women contracting TSS -- which can be fatal. These tampons were pulled from the market, and the number of cases dropped. But concerns about contracting TSS while menstruating still exist.

So what is it? TSS is essentially an infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus -- or staph -- bacteria. Symptoms include high fever and confusion, which then can rapidly progress to coma and eventually organ shutdown and even death. It also shows up as a rash, similar to a sunburn, and can be anywhere on the body, including the feet, lips, mouth, eyes, and hands.

This had us freaked, so we asked OB/GYN and momlogic expert Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz how common TSS really is.

Dr. Lenz says: "If this happens to you, don't feel bad, and please don't NOT come in for help if you need it ... but, for real, girlfriends, PLEASE keep track of your tampons! If you only knew how we feel when you come in sheepishly requesting a quick check down there, or how about the surprised gasp (yours, NOT MINE -- because I am holding my breath!!!) when I start your exam and discover the cute little treasure of your 10-day-old tampon in there. Lord have mercy! That's right ... even your gyno can get grossed out, and let me tell you -- if you can gross ME out, that is impressive!"

She continues: "OK, so now that I have pierced the veil around that little taboo ... here's the deal: If you don't have a fever or flu-like symptoms, don't freak out. Toxic Shock is not very common, though it can be very bad -- so if you know you left a tampon (or 2) in and can't get them out yourself, see your provider immediately! She or he may recommend treatment."

Have YOU ever forgotten a tampon? Surely we're not the only ones!

387 comments so far | Post a comment now
abbey February 4, 2010, 8:47 AM

I was never a big tampon user, but about two years ago I started using a Diva cup. It is the. best. invention. ever. it only needs changed ever 8-12 hours.

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I worked in a hospital emergency room.
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Jessica October 30, 2010, 10:26 AM

While I’ve never had this happen to me, I’ve heard of this happening and it frightens me! I think women really need to be aware of these things and try to avoid making this risky mistake!
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