Tampons and TSS: 3 Things You Should Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome

Tampon and applicator: AAW Women’s Health Awareness Blog

Every once in a (very great) while, news breaks about a case of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) linked to tampon use. These stories get a lot of media hype because they tend to be extreme situations, such as earlier this year when a woman left a tampon in for nine days.

If you’re questioning whether or not tampons are safe, here are three things you should know about TSS and tampons:

1. Tampons do not cause toxic shock syndrome.

TSS is a bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as “staph”) or Streptococcus pyogenes (commonly known as “strep”). The only reason that tampons are linked to toxic shock syndrome is because, if left in too long, they may create a bacteria-rich environment in which TSS can develop. Only about 50% of people who develop TSS are menstruating women.

2. Toxic shock syndrome is very rare. 

It may seem like you’ve heard about TSS often in women’s health news, but the condition is actually extremely rare complication and only surfaces in one out of every 100,000 women who use tampons. It’s important to note that the few women who do develop TSS almost always use ultra-absorbent tampons and leave them in too long. Even so, leaving a tampon in for too long does not mean you will end up with TSS.

3. Symptoms of toxic shock mirror the flu. 

If you do use tampons or menstrual cups regularly and suddenly develop a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, body soreness or seizures, don’t wait to get checked out. TSS has very similar symptoms to the flu, but it needs to be caught early for the best treatment. Treatment usually requires antibiotics and a possible hospital stay in order to get rid of the infection. Only 4-5% of cases are fatal.

The very slight risk of TSS should not keep you from using tampons. Proper hygiene and changing your tampon every 4-8 hours will make the possibility of forming a bacterial infection extremely unlikely. If you have questions or concerns about toxic shock syndrome, talk with your gynecologist.

At All About Women, we want you to be informed about possible women’s health risks, but also put these risks in proper perspective. We encourage you to make an appointment today to talk with our Gainesville and Lake City gynecologists about this or any other health concerns.

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