Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) — the health risk no one, especially women, are talking about

Earlier today I read an article on Yahoo! Parenting about Diane Roberts’s 13-year-old-daughter, who began feeling sick on a vacation with her family and was orginally thought to be a stomach bug, that ended up killing her after it was found she had toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from using tampons.

Also, months before I read about Roberts’s daughter, I had previously read an article on that told the story 27 year-old model, Lauren Wasser, who lost half of right her leg and all of her toes after contracting TSS from using tampons, and I have to admit — I did not think much of it until now.

Every tampon box warns you about it, with a small pamphlet that you most likely throw away, but I would like to explain what I have researched about this potential health scare, that can acutally happen to any unsuspecting, tampon-using women.

So before you freak out, let’s find out what exactly TSS is?

For starters, only about 1 out of every 100,000 women get TSS, which makes it rare for most women to contract. Also, very few cases are deadly like Roberts’s daughter’s who was mentioned above. See, don’t freak out.

But, for those of you wanting a more medical definition of TSS, the Mayo Clinic’s website gave me this:

“Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections. Often toxic shock syndrome results from toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria, but the condition may also be caused by toxins produced by group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. Toxic shock syndrome historically has been associated primarily with the use of superabsorbent tampons.”

TSS was talked about a lot in the 1980’s and is rarely even mentioned today because the amount of women getting TSS has significantly declined since then. But still today, about half of all TSS cases are linked to menstruation and others have been linked to specific types of birth control methods and can also affected someone who has any type of serious skin or blood infection.

The Mayo Clinic’s website also provided a list of possible signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome that include:

  • A sudden high fever
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A rash resembling a sunburn, particularly on your palms and soles
  • Confusion
  • Muscle aches
  • Redness of your eyes, mouth and throat
  • Seizures
  • Headaches

The website also mentioned that you should see a doctor immediately if you have signs or symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. This is especially important if you’ve recently used tampons or if you have a skin or wound infection.

So there you have it. Although pretty basic, and pretty rare, women (and men) need to know about this before they find themselves in life-threatening situations such as the one’s mentioned on Yahoo! or Cosmo. The word ‘rare’ probably makes most women feel better knowing that the likelihood of TSS happening to them is slim, but the concerning part here is that there is a still a likelihood of it happening.

So next time you use a tampon, take 5 minutes to read that little pamphlet inside the box — it might save you life.

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