Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome

What a scary-sounding name

It can be quite scary. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is extremely uncommon – only about .002% of women ever get it – but potentially life-threatening. Complications include kidney failure, going into shock, and death. Yay!

Nooo! What even is TSS?

It’s a complication of certain kinds of bacterial infections, either of a staph or strep infection. Symptoms include fever, hypotension, vomiting or diarrhea, sunburn-esque rashes on your hands and feet, and seizures, among other things.

And you get it from tampons, right?

Anyone can get TSS – men, women, children, etc. If you’ve ever bought a box of tampons, there was probably a TSS warning on it, since some superabsorbent tampons have been associated with the risk of TSS. However, ever since certain kinds of tampons were pulled from the shelves, TSS has gone down in menstruating women. Less than half of TSS cases involve tampons. To decrease your risk, don’t leave a tampon inside you for too long; otherwise it becomes a fertile environment for bacteria to be fruitful and multiply inside you, and you really don’t want that!

How else can I get it?

In addition to tampons, contraceptive sponges and diaphragms are associated with TSS. You can also get it from having cuts or burns on your skin, a viral infection like the flu, or having had surgery recently.

How can the doctors tell I’ve got it?

There’s no single TSS test; possible diagnostic tests include blood and urine samples, swabbing your vagina, cervix, and throat, and tests like chest X-rays and CT scans to see if other organs have been affected by the TSS.

What happens if I’ve got it?

You’ll be hospitalized and put on antibiotics. Depending on what symptoms you’re displaying, you may receive medication to, say, stabilize your blood pressure or treat your dehydration. Surgery might also be necessary if tissue needs to be removed from the infection site or if the infection needs to be drained. The good news is, even if you do get it, you’ve still got about at 95% chance of living!

I still don’t like those odds. How do I prevent this horror show from happening?

Use the lowest-absorbency tampon that you can, change it every 4-8 hours, and wash your hands before and after insertion. You got this!





2 responses to “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome”

  1. […] Tampons that have been inside you for too long (see also: TSS) […]

  2. […] Toxic shock syndrome is a rare (and sometimes life-threatening) caused by a bacterial infection. It often results from Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria, but may also be caused by streptococcus (strep) bacteria. […]

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