All You Need To Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome


Periods. Every woman gets them almost every month for about 30 years and chances are that if you´re reading this you are a woman too. If you add it all up you end up with about 2150 days of period in a lifetime which is a lot. But even though it takes up so much time in our lives, somehow we neglect to speak about it. Yeah, we´ll say that we are feeling bad because we´re on our period but we forget talking about risks that are associated with periods. I am 19 years old, I´ve had my period for about 5 years now and I just learned about a big risk for the use of tampons two months ago. Toxic Shock Syndrome is a serious condition that is linked to wearing tampons and it´s not even covered in school. So I did a little research and will now tell you what TSS is all about.

Warning: This post might be a trigger if you have anxiety issues related to illnesses. I would advice you not to read it (especially not if you´re using tampons right now).



Toxic Shock Syndrome is a systemic life-threatening disease that is caused by an bacterial infection. Bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus produce toxins that are dangerous when they get into the bloodstream. Another bacteria called group A streptococcus leads to a similar condition called Toxic Shock-Like Syndrome which is not related to the use of tampons but has the same symptoms. A healthy body has antibodies that fight this toxin but in some cases those antibodies do not exist or can´t deal with the amount of toxins. That´s when the immune system reacts badly and people experience TSS which can lead to multiple organ failure. Normally, the toxins are only dangerous when the bacteria is growing rapidly in a short time.

As with other bacterial infections the bacteria gets inside the bloodstream through wounds. That means that technically everyone can get it. TSS has been associated with the use of tampons since the 1970s where several deathly cases of TSS were reported in young, menstruating women. Until this day, no one is really sure why tampons can be a cause of TSS. One definite fact is that the bacteria causing TSS life inside of vaginas but are usually very harmless because they can´t get into the bloodstream. One theory says that tampons filled with blood are a great place for rapid growth of the bacteria. This then leads to the release of a lot of toxins which can end badly. A different theory states that tampons scratch the walls of vaginas which leads to small openings that the bacteria can use to get inside the bloodstream. Maybe it´s a combination of both theories or something completely different.

The symptoms for TSS include a sudden high fever, an extensive rash resembling a sunburn, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, skin peeling off on palms and soles, rapid drop in blood pressure, confusion, seizures, sensitivity to light, headaches, muscle aches and redness of eyes, mouth or throat. These symptoms then cause failure of different organs. To be diagnosed with TSS a failure of at least 3 organs is needed. The symptoms most likely appear 2-3 days after the infection. As TSS is a medical emergency, patients are hospitalized for a few days and get antibiotics and other meds that treat the symptoms. In the end, TSS is treatable but it does end deadly in up to 50% of cases.

Please don´t start running off in a panic now throwing all tampons out. TSS sounds and is dangerous but it´s a very rare disease as only about 1% of the bacteria produces the toxin. As I mentioned earlier, almost everyone has antibodies that can fight these toxins. There have been studies on the influence of tampons on TSS and the use of tampons is only a factor in less than half of the reported cases and this number is still dropping. There was a superabsorbend brand of tampons in the 1970s that used a scratchy material. This brand has been taken out of the market and since then tampons have been re-designed.

I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to any serious illnesses and I still use tampons. There´s just a few things you need to keep in mind. First, do never wear a tampon longer than 8 hours. Best would be changing at least every 4 hours. Try to choose a tampon size that isn´t as absorbend as you might like. Very absorbend tampons and ones that stay inside you for too long can soak up a lot of blood and leave the walls of your vagina dry. This could then lead to the bacteria rapidly growing inside the bloody tampon and the tampon scratching your walls because of how dry they are. Nights can often be longer than 8 hours, so use a sanitary towel then instead. You should also use sanitary towels after the heavy days have gone off. One important thing for everyone who had a staph or strep infection before: do not use tampons under any circumstances. You are more likely to get TSS.

In the end, there´s a very low risk for you to get TSS if you are aware of these tips. Just look out for the symptoms while you are using tampons and immediately contact your doctor if you find any of them. It´s also important to tell your doctor that you recently have been using tampons if you experience any symptoms. I have made up a little mnemonic for myself so that I can easily remember the most important symptoms of TSS.

                                                                                                        Tony         Never      Found the Raddish
                                                                                                       Tampons  Nausea  Fever         Rash

Helpful websites:
WebMD
KidsHealth
Healthline


7 comments

  1. You had me at 'Toxic Shock Syndrome' (there's something I never thought I'd say haha!)

    I love that you're prepared to talk about something like this, and I found this post really informative. I knew of TSS, but I didn't know about the symptoms etc so thank you for sharing :) xx

    Toasty

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    1. You´re right, that´s a weird sentence to say.

      Thank you. I just think we don´t talk enough about things like this and we really should.
      xx

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  2. This is such an interesting post, thank you for talking about it!! I've always been scared of this, since I started wearing tampons. I was round 14/15 so all the rumours would go around school when we were younger and I'd be so scared. It's something no one really addresses but a lot more people probably should xx

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    1. Thank you. Luckily, rumors are often just wrong. In my opinion, this is a topic that should be addressed in school as it´s a big part in every girl´s life.
      xx

      Delete
  3. Another illness that needs to be more talked about! Even though the risk of getting it is so low, girls who use tampons still need to know about it and how to use takpons properly to lower the risk even more.

    The Velvet Black | UK Style & Beauty Blog

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    Replies
    1. Exactly what I am thinking. I do hope people will get more aware of illnesses like this.
      xx

      Delete
  4. I actually know someone who passed away from TSS, so i've never worn tampons because of that. I think it's great that you're talking about the illness that's not very often talked about. It's really scary, but knowing the signs and how to use tampons properly is so important!

    Gold Dust
    x

    ReplyDelete

If you enjoyed my little ramble, why don´t you leave me a comment with your thoughts on it? Every little comment makes me really happy and I will try to reply to all of you.