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How long can you leave a tampon in?

Are you wondering how long you can leave a tampon in before you have to change it? Or if it's safe to wear one overnight? This guide will explain everything you need to know about how long tampons can be worn for.

The general rule of thumb is to change your tampon every 4 to 8 hours. Never ever leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours - your vagina deserves better than that!

How often should you change your tampon?

Ideally, switch out your tampon every 4 to 6 hours, or more often if your flow is going full force. On heavier days, you may need to change it as often as every 2 hours. Leaving a tampon in for too long puts you at risk of leaks, odours, and potentially serious health issues like toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

When inserting a new tampon, first wash your hands thoroughly. Then take a deep breath, find a position that feels good, and gently slide that tampon in using a reusable applicator or your finger (depending on what kind you've got). Don't forget to leave the string hanging out for an easy exit later. If a tampon ever feels uncomfortable or painful, remove it immediately.

What can happen if you leave a tampon in for too long?  

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening complication of bacterial infections. One of the ways it can occur is when a tampon is left in too long, allowing bacteria to grow. 

Symptoms of TSS include:

  • Sudden high fever 
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Rash resembling a sunburn
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness in eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

If you experience any potential symptoms of TSS while wearing a tampon, it's crucial to remove the tampon immediately and seek prompt medical attention. TSS can progress rapidly and lead to serious complications such as organ failure and shock. In rare cases, it can even be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome, so don't hesitate to get help if you suspect something is wrong.

Other health issues that can arise from wearing a tampon for too long include yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV). These common vaginal infections occur when the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted.

Symptoms of a yeast infection may include:

  • Thick, white, clumpy discharge resembling cottage cheese
  • Intense itching and irritation in and around the vagina
  • Burning sensation during urination or intercourse
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva

Signs of bacterial vaginosis may include:

  • Thin, grayish-white discharge
  • Strong, unpleasant, fishy odor
  • Burning during urination
  • Itching in and around the vaginal area

If you suspect you have a yeast infection or BV, it's important to see your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. They may prescribe antifungal medications for a yeast infection or antibiotics for BV to help restore your vaginal health.

Remember, while TSS, yeast infections, and BV are serious concerns, they can often be prevented by practising good tampon hygiene and following the guidelines for how to use a tampon safely. 

How can I reduce the chance of infection from wearing tampons? 

There are several steps you can take to minimise your risk of developing infections when using tampons:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing your tampon.
  • Change your tampon frequently, at least every 4-8 hours, to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Use the lowest absorbency tampon that still provides adequate protection for your flow.
  • Alternate between using tampons and pads when possible to give your body a break.
  • Don't use tampons between periods, as this can disrupt your vagina's natural balance.
  • Keep your vaginal area clean and dry by washing regularly with mild, unscented soap.

Consider switching to 100% organic cotton tampons, which are naturally breathable and less likely to cause irritation. 

Can you sleep with a tampon in?

It is generally safe to sleep with a tampon in, but there are a few important things to keep in mind:

Always insert a fresh tampon before going to bed, and make sure to remove it as soon as you wake up in the morning. Never leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours, as this increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and other infections.

When choosing a tampon for overnight use, opt for the lowest absorbency that will still provide adequate protection for your flow. This helps reduce the risk of TSS and ensures that the tampon will not become overly saturated, which can cause discomfort and leaks.

If you're not comfortable sleeping with a tampon or are experiencing a lighter flow, consider wearing an overnight period pad instead. Pads can be a good alternative, especially on nights when your period is tapering off or if you're prone to forgetting to change your tampon first thing in the morning.

Can you swim with a tampon in? 

Yes, tampons can be worn while swimming during your period in any kind of water. They are worn internally so the string is tucked in and won't be visible outside your swimwear. Just change your tampon once you're done swimming!

Safe and comfortable period protection

By following the guidelines for safe tampon use and changing your tampon every 4-8 hours, you can confidently manage your period. Organic cotton tampons are a great sustainable choice for your period. They are comfortable, leak-free protection made with naturally soft, breathable organic cotton - better for your body and the planet.

DAME is committed to providing high-quality, eco-friendly period products and empowering you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your menstrual health. Explore The Pioneer blog for more tips, advice, and insights on all things period-related, and join the movement towards more sustainable, comfortable, and safe menstrual care.

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