Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

by Anai Rhoads

Dear Anai,
What are the symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome? And do you just get this from using tampons?

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcusaureus. This bacteria releases toxins at a rapid speed into the bloodstream. It occurs primarily among the population that uses tampons. Keep in mind, that toxic shock does not necessarily happen to tampon users alone. Anyone exposed to this bacteria after surgery or from an open cut can get toxic shock syndrome as well. Toxic shock happens quite suddenly and without much warning.

Treatment for toxic shock syndrome is intravenous antibiotics. If not caught early enough, kidney or liver failure may occur. The symptoms to look out for are:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting or weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • High fever that runs over 102 degrees
  • A sunburn like rash on the palms or soles of feet

The following are ways to prevent toxic shock syndrome:

  • If you have ever had toxic shock syndrome before, avoid using tampons
  • If you still choose to use tampons, consider only cotton tampons
  • Change your tampon every 4 hours. Never sleep with one overnight
  • Avoid super absorbent tampons
  • Alternate between pads and tampons as much as possible
  • Always wash your hands before inserting a tampon
  • If you use a cervical cap or diaphragm, never leave it inside after time recommended in the instructions
  • Wash your cervical cap or diaphragm before and after each use to prevent infection

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or have a concern about TSS, consult your doctor.

Anai Rhoads is a medical and political researcher/writer with a particular interest in the sanctions on Iraq and the wider effect of racism's influence in the Middle East. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights. Originally from Greece, she now resides in Virginia, USA with her husband and their two dogs, Bijou and Eva.

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