Toxic Shock Syndrome is a warning you may have seen on your package of tampons or other feminine products. The name itself sounds pretty scary, and that’s because it can be a very serious illness if not treated properly. Toxic Shock Syndrome, also known as TSS, is a very real risk if you don’t know what it is and how to use feminine products safely. Read more to inform yourself or to have the right information to share with any young woman who is beginning to use feminine products.

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but serious illness caused by bacteria. Toxic shock can happen when bacteria enter the body. Symptoms include high fever, chills, muscle aches, and diarrhea. If left untreated, it can lead to shock and even death.

It’s most commonly associated with tampon use, but toxic shock refers to bacteria getting into the body that releases harmful toxins in any way. This can happen through a cut or scrape, burns, insect bites, or any type of puncture to the skin. TSS happens when these toxins from bacteria are released through the bloodstream and taken throughout the body and to the organs.

History or TSS for Women

Toxic Shock Syndrome was first identified in the 1970s and affected the population as a whole, men, women, and children alike. TSS soon became linked with women and was most commonly associated with a type of super-absorbent tampon called Rely. The brand sought to revolutionize the market with a reliable tampon made from synthetic materials. Some of these materials were polyester foam cubes, carboxymethylcellulose, and polyester.

Rely was not bound to the current federal safety regulations as it was grandfathered in. Unsurprisingly, the lack of proper testing lead to a product that was not safe. The materials had reactive traits that set the Toxic Shock Syndrome health concern in motion for women. The condition made headlines again in the early 2000s when there were reports of young women developing TSS from using tampons. This became a health crisis for women using the product.

How Does It Happen?

Most cases of TSS are linked to tampon use, but the exact cause is still unknown. It’s thought that the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is found on the skin and in the nose, can get into the body through a cut or break in the skin. Some of the bacteria most likely to cause toxic shock syndrome are Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Clostridium sordellii. The bacteria then release toxins that cause symptoms of TSS.

This can happen in several ways:

  • Using tampons: The most common way TSS occurs is from using tampons, specifically super-absorbent tampons. It’s thought that the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is found on the skin and in the nose, can get into the body through a cut or break in the skin. The bacteria then release toxins that cause symptoms of TSS.
  • Menstrual cups: There have been a few reported cases of TSS linked to menstrual cups. It’s thought that the cup can create an environment where bacteria can grow and release toxins.
  • Contraceptive sponges or diaphragms: There have also been a few reports of TSS linked to contraceptive sponges or diaphragms.
  • Burns: Burns, especially severe burns, can also lead to TSS. The bacteria can enter the body through an open wound or burn and release toxins.
  • Insect bites: Insect bites, particularly spider bites, can cause TSS. The bacteria can enter the body through the bite and release toxins.
  • Puncture wounds: Any type of puncture wound, such as a cut or scrape, can lead to TSS. The bacteria can enter the body through the wound and release toxins.
  • Surgery: TSS can also occur after surgery, when the bacteria can enter the body through an open wound.
  • Recent childbirth: TSS can occur after childbirth when bacteria can enter the body from injury or surgical intervention during birth.

What Are the Symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome?

Symptoms of TSS can vary depending on the person, but they usually come on suddenly and may include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Red rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Sore throat
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure

Major Complications of TSS

If TSS is left untreated, it can lead to shock and organ failure. The most common complication of TSS is kidney failure.

Other complications can include:

  • Organ failure
  • Liver damage
  • Pancreas damage
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Renal failure
  • Death

Preventing Toxic Shock Syndrome

The best way to prevent TSS is to be aware of the correct way to use feminine products and the symptoms to decide if you should see a doctor if you think you may have the condition.

Although the original materials in tampons that caused TSS are no longer used in the US, the danger is still there. If you are using tampons, be sure to change them every four to eight hours. Read the labels of all tampons you use and select the lowest absorbency tampon that will work. This is because a dry tampon can stick to the vaginal walls when there isn’t enough blood flow for the absorbency rating. When this happens, abrasions can occur when they are removed, and this creates an entry point for bacteria.

It is also recommended to alternate between tampons and pads and to just use pads or panty liners when your period is light. If you experience any symptoms of TSS, remove the tampon immediately and see a doctor right away.

Get Help For TSS

If you think you or someone you know has TSS, it’s important to get medical help right away. TSS is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience any of the symptoms of TSS. Be sure to tell the medical staff that you think you have TSS so they can start treatment immediately.

Treatment for TSS usually includes antibiotics to fight the infection and supportive care to help the body recover from the effects of the toxins. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove any dead tissue or infected areas. With prompt treatment, most people make a full recovery from TSS.

See An OBGYN in Brentwood, Tennessee

For other non-emergency feminine help issues in Brentwood, Tennessee, please give us a call at Cool Springs OBGYN. Dr. Lodge and his staff are here to provide you with the best possible care. We offer a variety of services such as annual exams, birth control counseling, and more.