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TSS…An Uncomfortable Topic But One That Needs To Be Discussed

Have you ever heard of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)? I remember when they first put a name to this often fatal condition found in young women who are menstruating and using super absorbent tampons for their period. TSS occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria, like staph and strep, in a woman’s body. Although is occurs mostly in women who use super absorbent tampons, it has also been found in men, children and older women. Those most at risk are people who are post-surgery or who have skin wounds.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of TSS include:

  • sudden high fever
  • hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • rash that looks like sunburn, especially on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
  • confusion
  • muscle aches
  • redness in the eyes, mouth and throat
  • seizures
  • headaches

It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know are exhibiting these symptoms and have a skin wound, have had a recent unhealed surgery or have used super absorbent tampons.

According to the Mayo Clinic the risk factors for TSS are:

  • having cuts or burns on the skin
  • having recently had surgery
  • use of contraceptive sponges, diaphragm and/or super absorbent tampons
  • viral infection like chicken pox or the flu

TSS progresses quickly and can lead to shock, renal failure and death. If you’ve had it once you can get it again. Since the initial discovery of TSS, tampon manufacturers changed the design of their products and removed the materials that seemed to encourage the growth of the offending staph and strep bacteria. The FDA also requires absorbency information and guidelines to be printed on the box.

Some guidelines to follow if you are using tampons:

  • use the lowest absorbency tampon possible
  • change tampons often…at least every four hours
  • use sanitary napkins rather than tampons, especially at night or at least alternate between tampons and sanitary napkins
  • use mini-pads when flow is light

Diagnosis of TSS may be done through a urine or blood sample. Swabs from the throat, vagina or cervix may be taken and a CT scan may be done to determine which organs might be affected.  TSS is an emergency situation and should be treated as such. If you suspect you are suffering from TSS, seek immediate medical treatment because time is of the essence.

With any disease or illness, prevention is always preferable over treatment. Take precautions to avoid developing TSS so you don’t endanger your life unnecessarily.
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