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How Common Is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Learn more about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from tampon use. What is this syndrome and is it common? Let’s find out.

What most of us do know is that Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a serious illness that can be fatal if left untreated. While it’s worth remembering that TSS is incredibly rare, we’re going to fill you in on everything you need to know and debunk a few myths in the process. 

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic Shock Syndrome is caused by the bacteria ‘staphylococcus aureus’, which normally live harmlessly on the skin, or in the bodies of about one third of the population. In rare cases, certain strains of these bacteria can produce toxins (poisons) that are the cause of TSS.

Who can get TSS and why?

The simple answer is, anyone can get it, regardless of your age or gender and it can occur as a result of infections following burns, scalds, wounds, or surgery. Half of all TSS cases occur in people who menstruate and use internal period products such as tampons, menstrual cups, or diaphragms. No one knows why this is, and the exact relationship between using these products and their link to TSS is still not clear, however by understanding how to use tampons correctly the risks of contracting TSS can be reduced.

How to know if you have Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome symptoms can develop very quickly and may seem like flu at first. Look out for a sudden high fever (usually over 39°C), dizziness, fainting, vomiting, diarrhoea, sunburn-like rashes, sore throat, or muscle ache. Remember, these symptoms might not occur all at the same time, so if you’re experiencing any of them during your period and are feeling worried about TSS, remove your tampon and speak to a qualified doctor. You can also visit your local A&E department.

How to reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome

Whilst Toxic Shock Syndrome is serious it’s very rare and shouldn’t stop you from using tampons if these are your preferred choice of period products. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after inserting a tampon.
  • Change your tampon at least every four to eight hours or more, if necessary
  • Use the lowest absorbency tampon for your flow. As your flow changes throughout your period, you may need to use different absorbency/sizes of tampon to ensure you are always using the lowest absorbency to suit you.
  • Switch to using a pad or liner every now and then during your period.
  • Never use two tampons at once.
  • Remember to remove your tampon at the end of your period.
  • If you wear tampons while you sleep, insert a fresh one before bed and remove it as soon as you wake up in the morning.

We provide information about TSS inside every pack of Lil-Lets tampons and we’re always updating it, so it's important to read the leaflets regularly, especially if you’re new to tampons, or haven’t used tampons for a while. The packaging also explains how to put in a tampon. Knowledge is power!

How to treat Toxic Shock Syndrome

Fortunately, Toxic Shock Syndrome is treatable, and most people recover fully. With early diagnosis, TSS can be treated with antibiotics to destroy the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and other medicines are prescribed to help counteract the symptoms, such as medicine to help control blood pressure and fluids to rehydrate you.

For more info on Toxic Shock Syndrome visit: www.toxicshock.com

Can you get TSS more than once?

Switching between tampons and pads during your period can reduce your chances of contracting TSS, but it’s worth noting that if you have been diagnosed with TSS before, it can recur, and your doctor will most likely advise using pads in the future.

Our final thoughts: Toxic Shock Syndrome and tampons

We hope you’ve gained a comprehensive understanding of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) as it relates to tampons and periods. Remember, TSS is an exceptionally rare condition, and practising good hygiene, using the appropriate period products and seeking medical attention when needed are vital steps to staying safe and taking care of your health. Spread this knowledge to empower others, and together, we'll demystify TSS!

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Is Toxic Shock Syndrome rare?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is considered a rare condition that affects a small percentage of menstruating individuals.

How do I know if I have Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome include sudden high fever, rashes, low blood pressure, dizziness, vomiting, and confusion. If you experience these symptoms while using tampons or have recently used them, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Can Toxic Shock Syndrome kill you?

Toxic Shock Syndrome can be life-threatening in severe cases, but with prompt medical treatment, the chances of recovery are high.

Can you get Toxic Shock Syndrome from a menstrual cup?

While extremely rare, there have been reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome associated with menstrual cup use. It’s important to follow proper hygiene practices and usage instructions to minimise the risk factors.

Can you get Toxic Shock Syndrome from pads?

While the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome from pads is extremely low, there have been a few reported cases. However, compared to tampons, the likelihood of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome from pads is significantly lower.


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