TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME
What is TSS?
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but serious illness that may cause death. It is caused by a toxin (a kind of biological poison) which is produced by a type of bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus). These bacteria are found in the nose of about one-third of the population. They may also be found on the skin, and occasionally in the vagina, without causing harm.
Who is at risk?
TSS can occur in both males and females of any age but is more common in young women who use tampons during their period.
What are the symptoms of TSS?
The early symptoms of TSS may begin suddenly and are similar to the ‘flu’. Remember, early recognition of these symptoms are very important.
- FEELING VERY ILL, HEADACHE, MUSCULAR PAINS
- HIGH FEVER AND CHILLS, USUALLY 39°C (102°F) OR HIGHER
- VOMITING, DIARRHOEA, OR BOTH
- FAINTING, DIZZINESS, WEAKNESS, OR CONFUSION
What must I do if I think I have TSS?
If, during your period or shortly after, you have any of the above symptoms, REMOVE YOUR TAMPON AND SEE A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. Remember it is very important to tell the doctor that you have been using tampons.
If you have ever had TSS, you should not use tampons until you have discussed the matter with a doctor. You may not have developed resistance to the toxin and could get TSS again.
How does TSS occur?
If the toxin is produced in the vagina or a wound, and absorbed from there into the bloodstream, a person who is not resistant to the toxin may become ill. Most people develop resistance to the toxin (that is why the illness is so rare) and in these people there is no harmful effect.
The symptoms of TSS may develop rapidly. Early recognition and treatment of these symptoms can usually prevent serious illness.
Do tampons cause TSS?
The simple answer is no. Tampons do not carry the bacteria which cause TSS. However, tampon use has been associated with an increased risk of TSS. Although TSS can occur with the use of tampons of any absorbency, the risk increases with the use of tampons of higher absorbency.
Please note that tampons are not sterile and neither are your hands or vagina. Tampons, while containing very small amounts of bacteria normally present in the air, have not been shown to carry the bacteria which causes Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
Where can I get more information about TSS?
You can get more information about TSS from www.dermnetnz.org
Precautions for tampon use
- You should use the lowest absorbency tampon for your comfort and level of blood flow. Use only one tampon at a time.
- Wash your hands before unwrapping and inserting a tampon, and again afterwards.
- Unwrap a fresh, clean tampon just before use—do not handle it more than necessary or place it on any surface.
- Do not insert a tampon if it hurts to do so.
- Removal of the tampon should be easy: if the tampon is dry and difficult to remove, the absorbency is too high or the tampon has not been in place long enough. Tampons should be changed as often as you need but should not be left longer than 8 hours.
- Remove the used tampon before inserting the next one and do not forget to remove the last tampon used at the end of your period.