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Parents speak out about tampon risks that put their teen on life support

Hannah Murphy is a writer and mom of three (two human, one canine). She loves bacon, vodka, babies, and dinosaurs--not always in that order. When she's not writing or chasing her boys around she's either chronically over-thinking or pret...

How using tampons landed a healthy 15-year-old on life support

In early January, 15-year-old Rylie Whitten complained to her parents about feeling ill. After two days of worsening symptoms, the Michigan teen was rushed to the hospital, where doctors soon learned that Rylie's cardiovascular system and lungs were failing.

After ruling out meningitis and the flu, blood work revealed that Rylie was suffering from a severe infection that led to toxic shock syndrome. Typically the misuse of tampons is to blame for toxic shock syndrome, a rare, life-threatening infection caused by certain types of bacteria, most commonly produced by the toxins in a staph infection. Leaving one in for too many hours or using one for many consecutive days can sometimes lead to these sorts of infections.

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Rylie is currently on life support, though she is slowly being taken off. As she recovers, her parents have made it their mission to bring more awareness to the dangers toxic shock syndrome can pose.

Tampon manufacturers claim these sorts of occurrences are rare. It affects only about 1 in every 100,000 people, but it's hard to ignore these sometimes severe health risks associated with tampons. In 2012, California model Lauren Wasser contracted toxic shock syndrome. She suffered a massive heart attack that led to gangrene in her leg and eventually resulted in its amputation. Wasser's family sued the tampon company, claiming it was "negligently, wantonly, recklessly, tortuously and unlawfully responsible in some manner" for what happened to her.

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Despite the fact that these events are classified as rare, it seems as though they're happening more and more often. Just last year, a 13-year-old girl died of complications related to contracting toxic shock syndrome, and every year young girls are hospitalized with these sorts of infections. All this raises the question: Are we teaching our kids enough about their changing bodies and hygienic health?

It's our job as parents to educate our children on their developing bodies and minds... no matter how awkward it may be. It's so important to have these conversations, and there is a wealth of information available to us these days that could aid in easing the awkwardness of discussing personal care.

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Young girls are especially intimidated by their feminine health. Using a tampon for the first time can be scary, and getting your period is never fun. It's our job as mothers to explain the proper steps and precautions to teach these young girls about the importance of taking care of their bodies. Something like toxic shock syndrome is so scary, but it can be avoided. A few short minutes of grimacing through the details of human anatomy and the importance of taking care of our bodies could save a child's life.

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