- Toxic Shock Syndrome Definition
- What is Toxic Shock Syndrome Caused by?
- How Common is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
- What are Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms?
- What is Toxic Shock Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment?
- What are the Consequences of Getting Toxic Shock Syndrome?
- Q: Is Toxic Shock Syndrome Treatable?
- Q: How Common is Toxic Shock Syndrome from Tampon Use?
- Q: How Long Can You Wear a Tampon?
- Q: Do Tampons Expire? Is It Safe to Use Out of Date Tampons?
- Q: Can a Tampon Get Lost in You?
- Q: Can You Get Toxic Shock Syndrome from Pads?
- Q: Can You Get Toxic Shock Syndrome from Menstrual Cups?
- Q: Are Pads Better for You than Tampons?
- Q: Can Toxic Shock Syndrome Be Transmitted Sexually?
- Q: How Soon do Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms Appear?
- Putting It All Together
The fear is real girls! I remember the first time I used tampons, I was really scared I’d be a victim of Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS.
I was so paranoid that every time I experienced something unusual in my body, I would automatically relate it to TSS.
Call it overreacting, crazy or maybe ignorance, but for my teenage self, my Toxic Shock Syndrome definition was a single word: Death.
Maybe you feel the same way about TSS and are now looking for ways on how to educate yourself (and hush your TSS paranoia), girl, I got you covered!
I’ll spill the real tea about this medical condition.
But first, what is Toxic Shock Syndrome anyway?
Toxic Shock Syndrome Definition
TSS is a rare and often times serious medical condition caused by the Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) bacterium. Once this bacterium gets into the bloodstream, it releases toxins affecting different systems of your body rapidly.
While it is said that you can get toxic shock syndrome from tampons (especially high absorbent ones), anyone with a wound, cut or sore is susceptible to this condition as these serve as an entry point for the Staph bacterium to enter our bloodstream.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome Caused by?
While TSS is commonly caused by the Staph bacterium, there are two other non-tampon related bacteria that may cause Toxic Shock-Like Symptoms or TSLS, these are Streptococcus Pyogenes (Strep) and Clostridium Sordellii (C.Sordellii).
Your doctor needs to identify which of these bacteria is causing TSS to provide a more accurate and targeted treatment.
How Common is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of TSS cases reported from 1979 – 1996 amounted to 5,296.
Thanks to modern technology, tampon product improvements, and TSS education, the number of cases drastically went down, and the most recent Toxic Shock Syndrome statistics shows that only 1-2 tampon wearers out of 100,000 contracts TSS (that’s .0001% of the women population).
The toxic shock syndrome death rate, however, depends on the bacteria that caused TSS or TSLS.
TSS caused by the Staph bacterium (linked to tampons) has a mortality rate of 5%-15%, while Strep TSS has 30%-70% (scary!).
What are Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms?
If you’re a beginner at periods, especially a tampon beginner, you’re probably having a gazillion questions, among some, maybe are:
- What are the first signs of toxic shock syndrome?
- How soon does toxic shock syndrome show up?
- What does toxic shock syndrome feel like?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, these questions also popped in my head every time I used tampons when I was younger.
I was always tuned in to my body trying to catch any TSS symptoms and wondering, how quickly can TSS show up? How would I know if I have it (knocks on wood)? I was literally over-thinking and stressing myself back then.
So, educate yourself about TSS to have one less thing to stress about in your life.
According to Mayo Clinic, TSS symptoms appear two days after infection and may include:
- Sudden onset of high fever.
- Low BP or Hypotension.
- Vomiting / Diarrhea.
- Sunburn-like rash on the palms and soles.
- Aching muscles.
- Red eyes, mouth, and throat.
What is Toxic Shock Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment?
So how do you test for toxic shock syndrome? Is TSS curable or can TSS kill you? While there’s no specific test available for TSS, your doctor may test your blood or urine to determine the presence of the Staph or Strep infection.
A vaginal, cervical or throat swab may also be requested for further analysis. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, other tests may be required to check the extent of the illness.
Upon being diagnosed with TSS, in-patient treatment will be required so that doctors and nurses can look after you and monitor your condition while providing necessary treatments, this may include:
- Hypotension meds (if you have low BP).
- IV fluids to treat dehydration (due to vomiting or diarrhea).
- Other meds to spot treat other symptoms.
Note: In the case of renal failure, dialysis may be required. If it worsened and caused necrotizing fasciitis, limb/s amputation may be needed.
What are the Consequences of Getting Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Recovering after TSS may be a challenging time for both the patient and family members. A huge percentage recover completely without being handicapped (due to amputation). People who recovered from TSS have a 5%-40% chance of getting it again.
So, how do you reduce the risk of TSS?
For Tampon Wearers
- Avoid super-absorbent tampons. Instead, use regular ones and change every 4 hours.
- Wash and sanitize your hands before and after handling tampons.
- Never use a tampon that has been unwrapped for days (even just a few hours) as this may have picked up dangerous bacteria. Only unwrap a tampon if you’ll use it immediately.
- Be gentle and careful when inserting/removing a tampon. Too much force or friction may cause tiny tears in your vag that may serve as an entry point for the Staph bacterium. Use lubrication if needed.
- Use pads for overnight use and pantyliners during light days.
For Wounds, Cuts, Sores, and Burns
- Always wash and sanitize your hands.
- Avoid touching the wound, cut, sore or burn site as much as possible (except to clean it).
- Depending on severity, practice proper wound/burn care. You may also seek your GP’s help in draining pus in case of infection (NEVER do it on your own!).
- Keep the wound clean and dry. You may use a bandage to protect it from getting in contact with dirty and possibly bacteria filled surroundings. Change the bandage regularly.
Q: Is Toxic Shock Syndrome Treatable?
Provided it’s diagnosed early on, yes, it is treatable.
Q: How Common is Toxic Shock Syndrome from Tampon Use?
Out of the 300 cases reported in 2016, half of it (mostly teens) are caused by tampon use.
Q: How Long Can You Wear a Tampon?
Since we’re talking about TSS, I assume the question is more: how long can you wear a tampon before getting toxic shock syndrome?
No matter the absorbency level, do not go over 4 hours without changing your tampon.
Leaving it on for 8+ hours puts you at risk for TSS. You don’t wanna play host to a Staph party, do you?
Q: Do Tampons Expire? Is It Safe to Use Out of Date Tampons?
Yes, they do! Once they reach their expiry date (usually 5 years after being manufactured), it loses its sterility especially when incorrectly stored, making it a perfect haven for bacteria and molds to grow (gross!).
You choose, new tampon box or hospitalization bills, meds and possibly your precious life?
The answer is easy, right?
Q: Can a Tampon Get Lost in You?
Nope. Your vag is not a black hole nor Hermione Granger’s bag that it can get lost and never be found, it stays where it is—in your vag (not your cervix nor inside the womb).
Should you find it hard to pull the tampon out, consult with your GP or OBGYN immediately (don’t wait till the next day!).
Q: Can You Get Toxic Shock Syndrome from Pads?
There are no chances of getting TSS from pads (yay!). Although there are still possible infections or other problems, like pad rash, you have to deal with if wearing a pad for too long.
If you’ve ever gotten a pad rash, then maybe reading this article will help.
Q: Can You Get Toxic Shock Syndrome from Menstrual Cups?
As for menstrual cups, there’s no evidence yet as to whether it can cause TSS or not.
If a menstrual cup is poorly made (cheap ones) and has excess material that may scratch our vagina, then bacteria may enter through that. Therefore, always consider quality over the price.
Read more about menstrual cups vs tampons to fully understand the difference between the two period options.
Q: Are Pads Better for You than Tampons?
Given there’s zero chance of developing TSS from pads, I’d say it’s safer and better.
Read this article to find out more about the difference between tampons vs pads!
But if you feel more comfortable with a tampon, I’d highly encourage you to at least buy the best organic tampons.
Q: Can Toxic Shock Syndrome Be Transmitted Sexually?
No. It’s not a sexually transmitted infection.
Q: How Soon do Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms Appear?
Symptoms appear 2 days after being infected.
Putting It All Together
- What is Toxic Shock Syndrome? A rare and serious bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus Aureus bacterium.
- It is highly preventable and treatable if diagnosed early on.
- Proper hygiene is the key to TSS prevention.
- Pads offer zero chance of getting TSS and therefore is the safest menstrual product choice.
Proper TSS education lessens our anxiety and paranoia, especially as tampon wearers.
One thing to remember though is do not self-diagnose and self-medicate. Should you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, do not Google for alternative treatments, go to your doctor or emergency care immediately.
Hope this article shed some light and eased your worries about TSS. Let me know if you have any other questions about TSS in the comments box below. Stay in the know!