Toxic Shock Syndrome: The Basics

Jun 112014
 

Toxic Shock SyndromeIf you’re a tampon user you’ve probably seen the warnings that come on every box: Toxic Shock Syndrome Risk. TSS is a rare disease caused when certain bacteria get into the blood stream and release toxins that damage the body’s functions. Tampon companies were required to add these warnings after a brand of super-absorbent tampons were linked to a 1980 outbreak of TSS that affected 814 menstruating women, 38 of them fatally. Once that brand was taken off the market, instances of TSS immediately dropped – but even today about 50% of TSS cases are still linked to menstruation and tampon use.

While concern about TSS has dropped considerably, a resurgence of cases in the early 2000s alarmed some researchers, who confirmed an increase in the incidence of toxic shock syndrome across the US. TSS is a rare disease; some scientists estimate that only 3-4 people per 100,000 are diagnosed each year. However, it’s still a condition menstruating women need to know about. Understanding how to prevent TSS and how to recognize the symptoms is absolutely necessary to protect your health and avoid the most serious complications.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

TSS is caused by Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep) bacteria. Both types of micro-organisms are found naturally on healthy skin and noses in 20-30% of people, and staph can also be found in the vagina itself –with no ill effects. The problems start when these bacteria find their way into the bloodstream, rapidly reproduce, and release toxins into the body. Most people develop antibodies that protect them against these toxins as they get older, which is why more than 1/3 of all cases of TSS are in women under 19. For unknown reasons, a small percentage of people never develop these anti-bodies.

The toxins interfere with the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, causing it to drop to dangerous lows. Kidneys tend to be particularly affected, since they filter out waste and toxins from your blood – untreated TSS can result in kidney failure. The bacteria itself also attacks tissues in the skin, muscles, and organs, so in extreme cases of TSS multi-organ failure can occur. Overall TSS has a 5% fatality rate.

Tampons and TSS

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why tampon use increases your risk for the disease, but there are two theories to explain the connection. First, it’s believed that tampons, especially super-absorbent ones which are often left in for longer periods of time, are an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria. Another theory holds that the fibers of the tampon dry out and scratch the tissue of your vagina, allowing the bacteria into your bloodstream. It’s important to remember that tampons themselves do not cause TSS, but they do increase your risk.

In addition to tampon use, TSS has been linked to wounds or burns on the skin, recent surgery or childbirth, use of wound packing materials (like those used for nosebleeds), and contraceptive sponges or diaphragms left in the vagina too long.

Symptoms

Symptoms of TSS can appear quickly and often mimic the flu, making it difficult to recognize for sufferers and to diagnose for doctors. Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden high fever
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash that looks like a sunburn
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Muscle/joint aches
  • Shedding of skin of the palms and the soles of the feet (after 1-2 weeks of illness)

If you’re on your period and have a sudden high fever and any of these symptoms, especially if you’re using tampons, you should seek medical attention at once. If you’re using a tampon, wound packing material, contraceptive sponge or diaphragm, remove it immediately – don’t wait until you see your doctor. The treatment for TSS generally includes a stay in the hospital, antibiotics to clear the infection, fluids to increase blood pressure and treat dehydration, and treatment of any complications (like organ damage).

Protect Yourself

Menstrual cups are made of 100% body-safe, medical-grade silicone – which is the exact same silicone used in surgical procedures and discourages the growth of bacteria. They also collect rather than absorb your menstrual fluid, meaning they don’t cause irritation or dryness. The cups can also be left in for up to 12 hours of safe, comfortable period protection (much longer than tampons). To learn more about menstrual cups click here.

Lily Cup Compact - The World's First Collapsible Menstrual Cup

Otherwise you should use the lowest absorbency tampon you can, be sure to change your tampons often (most brands recommend every 4 to 8 hours), and alternate using tampons and pads throughout your period. If you wear a tampon at night, be sure to insert a fresh one before bed and change it as soon as you wake up. And most importantly, always wash your hands before you insert anything into your vagina.

Around 30% of women who contract toxic shock syndrome will get it again, so if you have ever been diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome you should not use any device that has to be inserted into your vagina – especially tampons. For most women, the probability of getting TSS is quite low, but being aware of your risks and taking steps to minimize those risks is just a smart move for all menstruating women.
 
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.

Whilebleeding

The Babes with the Power – Badass Women to Celebrate This Women’s History Month

You already know the male-centered stories from elementary school history class. Been there, done that, and all while skipping over the real human rights pioneers who forged our freedom with their own blood, sweat and tears. Now it’s time to get the true story! Women have been at the helm for more historical milestones that [...]

Read more »

LilyCupCompact

The Handiest Cup to Carry – Lily Cup Compact!

Does your period like to sneak upon you, stubbornly refusing to stick to a schedule? Even those of us with clockwork-like cycles have been caught out by surprise spotting, and been forced to use whatever tampon or pad we could beg, borrow or steal. Not anymore, menstrual cup fans! While it hardly needs to be [...]

Read more »

Intimina_period_experience

Menstrual Cup Myths That You Can Stop Believing Right Now

Menstrual cups. Period cups. That Silicone Thing I Stick in My Vag Every Month. Call ’em what you want, babes, but those flexible, reusable cups for managing your menstruation are as trendy as they are amazing. If you’re still confused, give this article a read and come right back when you’re done. There’s a lot [...]

Read more »

Menstrual Cups Can Make You Stop Hating Your Period

According to Intimina Global Survey, women generally don’t like their period. Cramps, food cravings, bad mood, bursts of anger, bloating and decreased sex drive are just some of the side effects women experience during those days of the month. But not everything is so bad. The survey, in which more than a 1,000 women participated, [...]

Read more »

Are You Ready to Get Ziggy with It? Save 15%!

What do we love more than 12- hours of complete peace of mind when it comes to period protect? Why, a discount on the very cup that offers it!  We are, of course, talking about Ziggy Cup – the very first flat-fit cup from Intimina, and the only reusable menstrual cup that you can wear [...]

Read more »

Menstrual cup sketch

Can menstrual cup make sex better?

Period sex. It’s still a taboo for the most of us. Lots of ladies connect it with the worst – it’s bloody (literary), it’s messy, it’s just yucky, “what will my partner think if he sees it” awkward, and so on. Just a huge no-no. Better to just wait these few days, ignoring the heighten [...]

Read more »

Pink Week INTIMINA

Pink is the New Black – Grab an INTIMINA Menstrual Cup and Save During Pink Week!

Your period is a magical thing. It can nurture your self-care routine, create some seriously sizzling sexual chemistry, and help save the planet. So how, you might be wondering, can your monthly annoyance of cramps, bloating, and bleeding do all of this at once? It’s simple. Just switch from cumbersome pads or toxic tampons to [...]

Read more »

The Wacky PMS Symptoms Your Mom Never Warned You About

Does PMS really need some fancy introduction? Hell no! Anyone who’s menstruated already knows the basics of getting stuck with a case of pre-menstrual syndome, and we’ve boiled it down to simplicity: It. Freakin.’ Sucks! You’ve heard the stereotypical but oh-so-real symptoms of your Aunt Flo’s coming arrival: uterine cramps, headache, mood swings, bloating, back [...]

Read more »

Intimina Shares: Our First Period Stories

Ahh, menarche. It’s a beautiful moment that signals the beginning of our bodies’ maturation, and prepares us for our new lives as adults. Well, sorta, A first period will happen any time between 11 and 15 for most people* (though some will get theirs earlier or later, due to genetic or environmental reasons, including life [...]

Read more »

Gettin’ Ziggy With It! My First Time Trying a ‘Mess-Free Period Sex’ Menstrual Cup

Period sex– it’s the elephant in the (bed)room, the final frontier of vanilla intercourse, and quite possibly the big red stain on your pristine, white sheets. Your monthly flow has a thing for plot twists. One minute you’re running to the bathroom with cramps and constipation, the next you’re staring down your sex toy drawer [...]

Read more »

  • Sign Up. It's Rewarding!
  • Join our newsletter list today.
  • Enjoy 10% off your first order.
  • *Email address
  •  Birthday
  • *Required field
      View our terms and conditions
INTIMINA uses cookies to improve our service to the customer. By continuing to browse our site, you agree to our use of cookies detailed here . ACCEPT