Aunt Flo. Time of the month. Code red. Whatever you call it, getting your period is not fun. Not only is it messy and uncomfortable (cramps are the worst), but you also have to buy feminine hygiene products to deal with your monthly visitor. Tampons might be convenient during the day since they offer more protection, but many people wonder if they’re safe to wear overnight.
Concerns over wearing a tampon to bed are based on fears of toxic shock syndrome. You’ve probably heard horror stories about people who died after leaving tampons in too long. Toxic shock syndrome is caused by toxins released from a buildup of staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria found in women’s bodies. If a tampon is left inserted for too long, that bacteria buildup can occur and potentially lead to a drop in blood pressure, which may lead to death.
It’s scary stuff that might make you want to abandon your tampons altogether, but rest assured that tampons are totally safe as long as you follow the instructions on the box. That means changing them every four to eight hours.
So can you sleep with a tampon in? Well, that depends on your sleep schedule. If you put in a fresh tampon right before going to bed, and remove it after no more than eight hours of sleep, then you’re good to go. If, however, you’re prone to hitting that snooze button or plan on sleeping in on a Saturday morning, it’s much safer to use a pad. If you do sleep with a tampon in, be sure to use the lowest absorbency needed.
That doesn’t mean you need to hit up the doctor’s office if you leave your tampon in for a few extra minutes, though. While you should definitely change it every four to eight hours, the threat of toxic shock syndrome isn’t as big as it was a few decades ago, thanks to better tampon construction. “This changed especially after the removal of specific materials, like rayon, from some types of tampons. Back in 1986, the risk [of toxic shock syndrome] was one in 100,000 and is potentially lower now,” Dr. Nichole Manhert told Women’s Health. “And the risk of fatality has also decreased to less than 2 percent.”
Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you’re a dedicated tampon user, make sure that you have a box of pads stored in your bathroom just in case you want to sleep in.
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