What Is and When Does Tampon Toxic Shock Syndrome Occur?


You may have heard something about the toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and its relation to the use of tampons. In the boxes of this type of products, there is detailed information of the disorder. However, the truth is that few read this information.

And we should do it because, although the incidence is low, there is a certain risk that it will occur if they are not used correctly.

That is why it is convenient to know exactly what the TSS is, how to prevent it and how to recognize it. Identifying symptoms on time is essential to treat it and avoid more serious consequences.

What Causes Toxic Shock Syndrome?

The responsible one is a bacterium: Staphylococcus aureus, This bacterium is a micro-organism that, like many other bacteria, is found in the body of healthy people naturally, which is found in the skin, nose, armpits, groin, vagina and other mucous membranes. It is estimated that more than a third of healthy women have it without causing any health problems.

However, this bacterium releases a toxin that, in people who do not have antibodies against it, can cause TSS.

The Relationship of Tampons With Toxic Shock Syndrome

Dr. Laura Cortés, gynecologist at Women’s Health Institute Barcelona, says that this link has to do with the degree of absorption of the tampon: “the more absorbing it is, the more risk there is of contracting TSS because the balance of the vaginal microbiota is altered and that implies a decrease in lactobacilli that act as defenders against a possible infection. “

In fact, in the late 70’s in the United States there was a boom of women using tampons affected with toxic shock syndrome. The manufacturers reduced the absorbent materials of the tampons and drastically decreased the number of cases.

Keep in mind that this syndrome can occur with any product that is inserted into the vagina (menstrual cups, tampons, diaphragms…), although the risk is lower. In addition, it can occur from other causes (a skin infection or after surgery).

The Alert Symptoms

In the beginning, they are similar to those of a cold. The difference is that they evolve very quickly: “In fact, it is called shock because it is a very acute picture that can go from 0 to 100 in a short time,” says Dr. Cortés. That’s why you should be alert to these signs:

  • High fever that starts quickly (more than 39 Cº), confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle pain, sore throat, seizures, skin irritations and fainting. There may also be liver and kidney failure.
  • These symptoms can occur at any time during menstruation or soon after.
  • If you carry a tampon and you detect any of these signs, you should remove it immediately and put on a compress.

Of course, go to the doctor immediately. Diagnosed in time, the TSS can be treated successfully, but it is also true that if left unchecked it can cause an organic failure: “a toxic shock is a medical emergency, the toxin causes an inflammatory cascade at stratospheric levels, much more than can cause any other infection, and this can prevent the arrival of nutrients and oxygen to the organs, “ says Cortés.

How To Prevent This Syndrome?

Some good habits in tampon use are essential to reduce the risk of TSS:

  • Change it every 4 or 8 hours, according to your menstrual flow, and do not take it for more than 8 hours.
  • At night it uses better compresses.
  • Logically, apply the tampon with clean hands.
  • Never reuse the applicator.
  • Choose the right tampon for your menstrual flow, no more, no less. And do not use it before or after the rule.
  • The tampons are designed to absorb only menstrual flow. Do not use a tampon as a method of protection before the arrival of menstruation or to absorb non-menstrual vaginal discharge.
  • It is advisable to use compresses instead of tampons at least once a day during your period, ideally during the night. If you want to use tampons at night, you should make sure to put a new tampon before going to sleep and remove it immediately when you wake up. Never use the tampon overnight if you sleep more than 8 hours.

As the number of flow changes throughout the days of rule, you should go using a tampon with a different degree of absorption depending on the time you are. In fact, it is recommended to always use the minimum absorption. For example, if you have to change it before 4 hours you can use a more absorbent one. But if you take away some white part, you must use a smaller one.

What Should I Do If I Detect These Symptoms?

If you have any of these symptoms and are using a tampon, you should remove it immediately and use a compress. Contact your doctor and let them know that you have been using tampons and that you are worried about having TSS. It is important to rule out the possibility of having TSS as soon as possible or, if necessary, to apply the appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

Is It Possible To Acquire The Toxic Shock Syndrome More Than Once?

Having suffered TSS once does not mean that it can not be acquired again. TSS may reappear, and in fact, one of the main reasons why someone suffers from TSS is their inability to produce a sufficient level of antibodies. If a woman has suffered TSS on previous occasions, you should check with your doctor before using tampons again.

What Is The Treatment For Toxic Shock Syndrome?

After an early diagnosis, TSS can be effectively treated with rehydration, antibiotics and other appropriate medicines, depending on the symptoms.

If the TSS is diagnosed early and the appropriate treatment is performed, there is a high probability of successful recovery. In fact, there are few occasions in which the disease has resulted in fatal consequences.

Most strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria do not produce toxins that can cause TSS, and only certain strains of this bacterium produce them. In addition, the presence of a bacterial strain that generates these toxins, although necessary for the development of TSS, is not enough. In fact, many studies show that colonization by these bacteria is very common, while cases of TSS are very unusual. What does the development of the TSS depend on then? Mainly, of the presence or absence in the body of that person, of antibodies against these toxins. Most women, although not all, have a sufficient level of antibodies that protect them against these toxins.


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