Let’s Talk About Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome - Causes & Symptoms

Toxic shock syndrome is what keeps a lot of women away from using tampons. While the risk is there, with a little care it is easily possible to avoid getting affected.


What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a sudden, dangerous and almost always fatal illness that affects more women because of the presence of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also called staph. A sudden overgrowth of these bacteria can lead to a poisonous substance getting released into the blood stream, causing an immediate drop in blood pressure and loss of oxygen in the body.

 Toxic Shock Syndrome largely affects menstruating women, specifically those using super-absorbent tampons. This disease shot into prominence sometime in the later 70s and early 80s when quite a few young girls and women from the US who were using a type of super-absorbent tampons succumbed to it. 

Having said that, this disease is not limited to tampons alone. Women using sponges, cervical cups or diaphragms during periodscan get affected, as can a woman who is a recent mother. Any individual (male or female) who is recovering from a surgery, has an open wound, or has been burned recently or uses a prosthetic device and comes in contact with the staph bacteria, can also contract TSS.

What causes Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Staph is commonly found residing in the vagina. Scientists are as yet baffled as to why bacteria cause toxic shock syndrome. However, if the environment permits the growth of the bacteria and the release of poison, which then somehow finds its way into the bloodstream, an individual can getaffected by TSS.

A blood-soaked tampon encourages bacteria growth. Also, a tampon made of polyester foam creates a better ground for growth than cotton or rayon. Products such as diaphragms, sponges and cervical caps promote bacterial breeding, especially if they haven’t been removed from the vagina for a long time, say over a day.

In the case of tampons, the poison can enter the body through microscopic tears made in the vaginal walls while sliding in the tampon. If a super-absorbent tampon is used – and left inside for too long – it can dry the vagina and make tearing more likely.

Whisper Ultra Clean XL Wings sanitary napkins (30s)
Whisper Ultra Clean XL Wings (30s)
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Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms

Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome vary from person to person. But almost always, the symptoms appear suddenly. If you suffer from any of these symptoms while or after using tampons, or after a surgery, consult your doctor immediately. Remove the offending object even before you call the doctor.

  • A sudden fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Redness of eyes, mouth, and throat
  • Seizures

Feminine hygiene products like Whisper Ultra and Tampax, deodorant products or underwear do not cause toxic shock syndrome. It has also got nothing to do with your menstrual cycle, excessive drug or alcohol abuse, cigarettes, swimming or bathing, or sexual history.

Remember, getting affected by toxic shock syndrome is rare and if you follow simple precautions you will not become ill.

Read useful health tips for women here.

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