What You Need to Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome (and How to Prevent It)

Mar 14, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: Pxhidalgo/Getty Image

If you have ever taken the time to thoroughly read through the back of a tampon box, you’ll find a message that reads, “Warning of toxic shock syndrome.” You may be thinking, “What the heck is toxic shock syndrome and do I need to be concerned for my health?” Before you begin to panic, we have the answers.

What is toxic shock syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, toxic shock syndrome is a rare condition caused by deadly toxins resulting from staphylococcus aureus bacteria. In other words, toxic shock syndrome is a buildup of dangerous bacteria, which will have an extremely negative affect on your health.

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Because of the clogged bacteria, it’s possible to get toxic shock syndrome from leaving in a tampon for more than eight hours. Because the condition has been associated with the use of super-absorbent tampons, manufacturers have pulled certain tampons off the market, thanks to which the statistics of women getting toxic shock syndrome has dramatically declined.

Menstruating women are not the only people who can suffer from toxic shock syndrome. Risk factors for the syndrome also include people who have had recent skin infections or surgeries, according to Merck Manual.

Symptoms and treatment

The symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include a fever, low blood pressure, headache, confusion, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash and seizures, according to Healthline. Because these symptoms are common with other illnesses and health factors, visit your doctor to be sure you have the correct diagnosis.

Toxic shock syndrome should be taken seriously, as it is considered a medical emergency. Visit your doctor immediately if you think it is possible you may have toxic shock syndrome. Your doctor will most likely prescribe you antibiotics that will help fight the bacteria. It is possible that you will have to stay under the hospital’s care for a few days.

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Other treatments may include treating the underlying cause of the disease. For example, if the toxic shock syndrome was caused by a bacteria buildup from an over-absorbed tampon, your doctor will need to remove the tampon. If the syndrome was caused by surgical wounds, your doctor may drain any fluids to clear the infection.

How to prevent it

It is not recommended to wear tampons if you have a history of toxic shock syndrome because the disease can recur.

In order to prevent toxic shock syndrome, it is advised to avoid wearing tampons. However, if you prefer wearing tampons, be sure to change your tampon frequently (every four to eight hours) and wear a low-absorbency tampon.

In other cases of toxic shock syndrome, be sure to wash your hands often to remove bacteria. Keep cuts, including surgical wounds, clean by changing the bandages frequently.

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This article isn’t meant to scare tampon users; tampons are great! However, it’s important to be aware of the disease and its causes so you are able to decrease the chances of getting it in the future.

By Katlyn Tolly

Originally published on HelloFlo.