Did you see the news about the model, Lauren Wasser, who lost her leg due to Toxic Shock Syndrome? (people.com) It’s horrifying to think that TSS, which can result from you simply forgetting to remove a tampon, could produce such devastating effects. Super scary, huh? As if Mother Nature’s gift isn’t enough of a curse every month, we get this little horror to go along with mood swings, cramps and icky mess. But what should you know about it?
TSS is a bacterial infection. The bacterium in question is an unfriendly little monster called Staphylococcus aureus. Although commonly associated with tampons that haven’t been removed, TSS can arise through other causes. In every case, a person must already have Staphylococcus aureus present in their body or introduce it with the tampon in order to get toxic shock, which enables me to assure you that the chances of you getting TSS are extremely low.
Unfortunately, some of the symptoms are so generic and a lot could lead you to thinking you have the flu. They do come on quite suddenly, though. These are the signs to watch for: sudden fever, low blood pressure, headache, aching muscles, disorientation and confusion, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, rash, redness in the eyes, mouth, and throat and seizures.
One of the key facts about TSS is that it is incredibly rare. It seems as though every girl knows a girl who knows somebody that has had it, but this is totally untrue. The facts are that only a couple of hundred people get Toxic Shock Syndrome in the USA each year, so given the population this is a really, REALLY low percentage. Much of the talk surrounding it is purely rumour and scare tactics.
Though many of the claims about keeping a tampon in for too long are over exaggerated, it is true that you need to be careful when sleeping with one in overnight. Problems can begin to arise from keeping the falling uterus lining inside your body for too long. To alleviate any possible issues, either sleep with a maxi pad instead or set an alarm for halfway through the night so that you can go and change.
Research has shown that if you regularly use a tampon that has a bigger absorbency level than your period needs then you are more likely to be at rick of catching TSS. The reason for this is that if you are inserting a ‘super plus,’ you are therefore able to go longer without switching tampons and run the risk of infection through prolonged use of a single tampon.
Many experts believe that the specific materials that make up your tampon might be a contributing factor to your level of risk of TSS. For example, it is thought that tampons made from polyester foam and rayon create an environment in which bacteria love to thrive. If this is something you would like to avoid, then consider switching to one of the organic tampon brands that are available on the market; they are much more environmentally and naturally geared.
It might not be something that you have ever thought about, but tampons do actually go out of date. The expiration, or use by, date is on the bottom of every box, and even though they may look absolutely fine, this is something that should be taken very seriously. After all, you wouldn’t drink milk that had gone off, so why would you put something into you body that has seemingly expired?
The over-riding message to remember - TSS is rare. However, if you don’t feel right, SAY SOMETHING. It is so important that you listen to your body and seek help or advice when it feels appropriate. The classic symptoms of TSS are pretty regular health occurrences. However, if these symptoms occur during your period, it might be worth giving them special attention.